(JTA) — Religious communities in Ukraine, including the Jewish community, called on Russia to “stop its aggression against Ukraine” and pull out its troops.
The religious communities also appealed to the international community, including the United States, Great Britain, the European Union, the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, to “stop foreign invasion into Ukraine and brutal interference into our internal affairs.”
Rabbi Jacob Dov Bleich, president of the Jewish Federation of Ukraine and a chief rabbi in the country, was among the signatories of the letter circulated by the Institute for Religious Freedom. Other signatories include the heads of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate; the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church; the Evangelical Baptist Union of Ukraine; the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ukraine; and the Ukrainian Lutheran Church.
“Dear Brothers and Sisters in Russia! The Ukrainian people have only friendly, fraternal feelings toward the Russian people. Do not believe the propaganda that enflames hostility between us. We want and we will continue to build friendly and fraternal relations with Russia but only as a sovereign and independent state,” the letter states.
Meanwhile, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee said Sunday that it has activated emergency plans to help needy Jews in Crimea, which is home to about 17,000 Jews who live in and around Simferopol, Sevastopol, Feodosia and Yalta. The assistance includes delivering food and medicine to the homes of elderly and poor, establishing emergency phone chains and increasing security around Jewish community centers.
The JDC said in a statement that it has “prepared appropriate contingency plans in case the situation worsens.”
In a statement released Friday, Rabbi Michael Kapustin of the Ner Tamid Reform synagogue in Simferopol, in the Crimean Peninsula, said he would go to his synagogue to light candles even though services were canceled for security reasons.
“The city is occupied by Russians. Apparently Russians intend to take over the Crimea and make it a part of Russia,” Kapustin said. ”If this were the case I would leave the country. In this case, I will leave this country since I want to live in democratic Ukraine.”