Weary Odessa Jews Celebrate Lag Ba’omer Amid Tight Security

First large Jewish gathering since deadly riots claimed lives of 42 in Ukrainian city.

JTA
JTA
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
A local resident attaches a ribbon of St. George, a symbol widely associated with pro-Russian protests in Ukraine, to a burnt trade union building in Odessa. May 11, 2014.
A local resident attaches a ribbon of St. George, a symbol widely associated with pro-Russian protests in Ukraine, to a burnt trade union building in Odessa. May 11, 2014.Credit: Reuters
JTA
JTA

Hundreds of Odessa Jews celebrated Lag Ba’omer under guard in the city’s first large Jewish gathering since deadly riots there two weeks ago.

The participants gathered near the city’s Chabad Jewish school on Saturday evening for a bonfire accompanied by song and dances while a dozen guards secured the perimeter, according to Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which provides aid to Jews in the former Soviet Union.

“I came to encourage, inspire and sing, and the truth of the matter is, I became inspired by how the Jewish community is managing, gathering for the first time since the riots to give children a sense of normalcy and some fun,” Eckstein told JTA.

Community leaders said they had suspended activities that involved congregating for safety reasons following the May 2 riots that broke out in downtown Odessa. Forty-two people were killed following clashes between pro-Russian demonstrators and their opponents, as well as police.

Hundreds have died in similar clashes throughout Ukraine during the revolution that ousted President Viktor Yanukovych from power in February. Detractors accused him of corruption and allegiance to Russia, which annexed the Crimea from Ukraine in March. A new round of violence erupted after the annexation between pro-Russian protesters and opponents.

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which provides $20 million to $25 million annually in aid to Jews in the former Soviet union, has pledged an extra $5.5 million this year in emergency funding to Ukrainian communities, Eckstein said. He noted that $3 million of the added funding is for security.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.

Facing Rapid Rise in Sea Levels, Israel Could Lose Large Parts of Its Coastline by 2050

Tal Dilian.

As Israel Reins in Its Cyberarms Industry, an Ex-intel Officer Is Building a New Empire

Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III and a British synagogue.

How the Queen’s Death Changes British Jewry’s Most Distinctive Prayer

Newly appointed Israeli ambassador to Chile, Gil Artzyeli, poses for a group picture alongside Rabbi Yonatan Szewkis, Chilean deputy Helia Molina and Gerardo Gorodischer, during a religious ceremony in a synagogue in Vina del Mar, Chile last week.

Chile Community Leaders 'Horrified' by Treatment of Israeli Envoy

Queen Elizabeth attends a ceremony at Windsor Castle, in June 2021.

Over 120 Countries, but Never Israel: Queen Elizabeth II's Unofficial Boycott