As we witness with horror the increasingly disturbing Russian aggression against Ukraine, the Zionist Rabbinic Coalition presents the following articles and talking points developed by the Focus Project to help understand Israel’s position, the complexity of the reality it faces, and some helpful background information about the conflict.


And be on the lookout for an announcement of our First Annual National Conference May 22 – 24 in Washington, DC.

Ukraine, Israel and the Jewish Community

A Complex Story in an Ever-Evolving War

This email is developed by The Focus Project in partnership with the Zionist Rabbinic Coalition. The Focus Project distributes weekly news and talking points on timely issues crucial to the Jewish world, including antisemitism and the delegitimization of Israel. Its editorial input represents a consensus view among major American Jewish organizations. The Zionist Rabbinic Coalition recognizes and respects the diversity of views on these issues among its readers and the community at large.

Four-minute read:

• Background

• Talking Points

• Actions to Consider

• Stories to Watch

• In Other News

• Suggested Social Media Posts



Less than a week into the deadly Russian invasion of Ukraine, the military and political battle lines are being redrawn daily, sometimes hourly. With world leaders struggling to anticipate or even understand President Putin’s motives, one leader has taken everyone by surprise, defending his nation in a strong and courageous stance, at significant risk to his own life. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a former comedic actor and a Jewish grandson of Holocaust survivors, epitomizes the independent spirit of his people, which some have credited for the recent strengthening of Europe’s resolve against Russia. Responding to several offers to leave the country, Zelensky has said: “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride.”


Zelensky’s Jewish background and history, as well as his country’s unified support against the Russian invasion, stand in stark contrast to President Putin’s claims of needing “to protect the people who are subjected to abuse, genocide from the Kyiv regime” and to “denazify Ukraine…” Many have called out the absurdity of this comparison, pointing out that three of Zelensky’s great uncles were executed as part of the German-led genocide of European Jews during the war. In a plea to the Russian people last week, Zelensky tweeted “How can I be a Nazi? Tell my grandpa, who went through the whole war in the infantry of the Soviet Army and died as a colonel in independent Ukraine.” The US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Israel’s Yad Vashem, and the ADL, among a chorus of others, issued a strong condemnation. A growing list of scholars of genocide, the Holocaust, and World War II have signed a joint statement condemning the war, saying, “We strongly reject the Russian government’s cynical abuse of the term genocide, the memory of World War II and the Holocaust, and the equation of the Ukrainian state with the Nazi regime to justify its unprovoked aggression.”


The Government of Israel announced on Monday that it will support a UN condemnation of Russia. In a briefing to reporters in Jerusalem, Israel’s foreign minister Yair Lapid stated that Israel “will stand on the right side of history.”

Talking Points:

  1. Unlike previous generations of Jews fighting persecution, today they can be sure of one thing: Israel will be there to support them in their time of need. Over this past week, the Jewish and Israeli spirit of saving lives and supporting each other has shone as strongly as ever, engaging in multiple life-saving efforts – whether by sheltering members of their community in local synagogues, sending medical personnel to offer humanitarian aid, or even jumping in to save citizens of its Arab neighbors. The Jewish Agency for Israel has opened six aliyah processing stations across the Ukrainian border and other Jewish organizations have stepped up to offer financial support. This, as AJC’s David Harris recently said, is the essential meaning of Israel, representing “nothing less than a lifeline, a sanctuary, and a haven.”
  2. Surrounded by foes from all sides, Israel chose to stand on the “right side of history.” Israel today faces a dilemma, between the moral imperative to take a stand against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, while maintaining its national security interests. With Russia virtually controlling the Syrian border, it has allowed Israel to act against Iranian armaments in the area without retribution, a stance that could prove catastrophic if denied at any time. This unique situation has led to a delicate balancing act for the Israeli government, but has also put it in the unique position as a possible mediator between the parties (an offer that has so far been rejected by Russia).
  3. Shadowed by a complex and sometimes very dark history, Ukraine today has a thriving Jewish community. Prior to the outbreak of WWII, there were 1.5 million Jews living in Ukraine, with many murdered by the Nazis during the war. One particular event, the wholesale massacre of 34,000 Jews in Babi Yar, will never be forgotten. Today, the country is home to a diverse Jewish community, with nearly 200,000 eligible for Israeli citizenship under the country’s Law of Return. There are also an estimated 10,000-15,000 Israelis living and working in Ukraine, many running high-tech businesses. Recent Ukrainian leaders have taken more steps to recognize their painful history, and recently passed a law criminalizing antisemitism.
Actions to consider:


  1. Educate yourself on the past and recent history of Ukraine’s Jews. When countering biased or misleading reports, knowing the real facts makes a difference against those who otherwise buy into the libels.
  2. If you want to support the Ukrainian Jewish community, there are many organizations you can reach out to, including United HatzalahUFCJ (United Fellowship of Christians and Jews), the Chesed Fund and others.

Suggested social media posts: We invite you to post these captioned images on your social media. Paraphrasing our captions is encouraged.

For many Jews watching Ukraine’s war, Volodymyr Zelenskyy is a ‘modern Maccabee’.

Zelenskyy 2.png
Zelensky: World ‘silent’ on bombing of Holocaust memorial, what about ‘never again’?