Religious and Social Movements in Ukrainian Jewry

Ukrainian Jewry became a focus of religious and social ferment within Judaism from the late 17th Century.  The massacres and sufferings endured by the Jews in the Ukraine also introduced spiritual and social trends.  The messianic agitation which followed the massacres of 1648-49 paved the way for the penetration of Shabbateanism, while at the time of the Haidamak persecutions and the revival of the blood libels, the Franksist movement made its appearance, and Hasidim as inaugurated by Israel b. Eliezer Ba'al Shem Tov developed and spread rapidly through the country.  After the Pogroms of the 1880s, the Ukraine was not only the birthplace of the Hibbat Zion, the Bilu, and the Am Loam movements but also of the Dukhovno-bibleyskoye bratstvo ("Spiritual Biblical Brotherhood," founded by Jacob Gordin and others) which sought to "bring back" the Jews to the religious purity of the Bible and thus draw them closer to Christianity.  Activist and revolutionary trends were also prominent in the Hebrew and Yiddish literature which emerged in the Ukraine during the 19th and 20th centuries.

During the 1920s and the early 1930s three Jewish districts were created in the areas of Jewish settlement in southeastern Ukraine (Kalininskoye, Stalinskoye, Zlatopol)

After World War II

During the last stages of World War II and in the period after it, when Nikita Khrushchev was the ruling party man of the Ukraine, Ukrainian Jews who, during the occupation, fled or were evacuated to Soviet Asia, began to stream back and claim there previous housing, possessions and positions. They were met with outspoken hostility by most of the Ukrainians who had taken their place. The administration refused to interfere in favor of the Jews and generally showed "understanding" for the anti-Jewish reaction, even hushing up violent clashes (as, e.g., in Kiev).  The official anti-Jewish atmosphere prevailed in the Ukraine during the whole postwar period. The only synagogue in Kharkov was closed down in 1948 and its aged rabbi sent to a labor camp.  In Kiev the only remaining synagogue was put under surveillance of the secret police, more than in other Soviet cities.  Yiddish folklore concerts and shows were almost completely banned from the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, though they were allowed to take place occasionally in Ukrainian provincial towns.

An interesting reaction to this trend "from above" became noticeable in the late 1960s among Ukrainian intellectuals who openly strove to achieve more freedom in civil and national rights.  Though engaged in defending the Ukrainian character of their republic against "russification," some of them went out of their way to emphasize their solidarity for Jewish demands for the revival of Jewish culture and education. They also identified with the Jewish attempt to keep alive the remembrance of the Holocaust against the official policy of obliterating it.  Young Ukrainian writers, most of them Communist Party members, expressed this new trend in Ukrainian national thought in various ways, and even in labor camps after their arrest for "bourgeois nationalism."  A particular impression was made in 1966 by the speech of the writer Ivan Dzyuba in Babi Yar on the anniversary of the massacre (October 29).  It was published only in the West, but it became widely known among Jews and educated non-Jews in the Ukraine.

From 1969 some Jewish families in Kharkov, Kiev and Odessa were allowed to leave the U.S.S.R. for Israel.

Ukrainian Jewish Settlement Ukrainian Jewish National Autonomy Persecution of Ukrainian Jews Ukraine