Since 1991, a number of Jewish communities and organizations have reappeared in Ukraine, writes Juliana Smilianskaya, director of the Institute for Jewish Studies in Kyiv, in Religion & Gesellschaft in Ost und West (February).
Their number has regularly grown since Ukrainian independence and has enjoyed the support of international Jewish organizations. Currently, 290 Jewish communities are registered. Those communities are affiliated with different movements: 123 belong to a Chabad-Lubavtich federation, 84 to an association of Jewish religious organizations in Ukraine, 13 to a Ukrainian congress of Jewish religious communities, 50 identify with an association for progressive Judaism, and 26 are independent.
The restitution process has allowed the recovery of old synagogues, but new ones have been built too, mostly in smaller cities. There are permanent rabbis active in more than 30 cities. A Jewish educational system has been rebuilt and is being used by some 10,000 children and adults.
According to a survey conducted in 2001, approximately 100,000 people identified themselves as Jews in Ukraine, while close to 300,000 had at least one Jewish parent or grandparent. Around 15 percent of the Jewish population is religiously active. But a majority has some knowledge of Jewish religious traditions and visits a synagogue from time to time.
Orthodox communities have received more funding, also from local sponsors (whatever their own religious involvement), but dynamic Reform communities are gaining young and middle-aged people and, despite being materially less prosperous, are attracting more support in recent years. They also attempt to make a place for non-Jewish members of Jewish families.
(Religion & Gesellschaft in Ost und West, Birmensdorferstr. 52, P.O. Box 9329, 8036 Zurich, Switzerland – http://www.g2w.eu)