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7 Nissan 5763 - April 9, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Ukraine Census Shows Sharp Drop in Jews
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

Only 103,591 Jews were counted in the 2001 census, which was released in late December 2002. Before the census, estimates were that 250,000 to 500,000 Jews live in Ukraine.

According to some, many respondents were afraid to say that they are Jews. They say that their experience under communist dictators makes them wary about admitting to their Jewish origins.

Ukraine's last census, conducted in 1989 when it was still part of the Soviet Union, counted 487,300 Jews among about 52 million people.

Now the total population is slightly less than 48.5 million. Emigration and a low birth rate contributed to the decrease.

Thousands of Ukrainian Jews have moved to Israel or to Germany or the United States. Many observers say that cannot account for the sharp drop of 380,000 in 12 years. In the last census, people were officially identified in their Soviet documents by nationality. Today any identification is voluntary.

According to surveys by the Jewish Agency for Israel, there are 215,000 to 220,000 Jews in Ukraine, said Alex Katz, head of Jewish Agency operations in Ukraine and Moldova.

The chief rabbi of Ukraine, Rabbi Ya'akov Bleich, said the real number is closer to half a million Jews, or five times the census figure.

Josef Zissels, chairman of the Va'ad umbrella group of Jewish organizations in Ukraine, said that at least 150,000 Ukrainians are Jewish according to Jewish law, meaning that they have a Jewish mother. Including those with a Jewish spouse or at least one Jewish grandparent, some 400,000 individuals would qualify to immigrate to Israel under the Jewish state's Law of Return, he said. The census figure makes sense only if it counts only those people with two Jewish parents, he said.

The 2001 census also saw a decrease in the number of people identifying themselves as ethnic Russians and an increase in the number of ethnic Ukrainians, who now make up nearly 78 percent of the population.


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