The Jewish Cemeteries of Lviv

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The Old Jewish Cemetery of Lviv was founded in 1450 and the New Jewish Cemetery of Lviv was founded in 1850. As we approach the 21st Century, the City Council of Lviv started to try to give out a contract to build a hotel on the site of the cemeteries. For the last ten or more years the UCSJ through its Lviv Director, Meylakh Sheykhet, has sued in the courts of Ukraine to stop the construction of a hotel on the site of the Old and New cemeteries. The courts of Ukraine have again held for the UCSJ suing on behalf of the Jewish citizens of Lviv, but we must continue to monitor the actions of the City Council of Lviv to ensure that the cemeteries are properly protected. We have enlisted the help of the US Ambassador to Ukraine but even that has not been successful. UCSJ and its Lviv Bureau continuously shape the legal system of Ukraine to enforce the 1994 US-Ukraine Agreement on Cultural Heritage sites protection and preservation, the Rule of International Law, and Domestic Law of Ukraine to preserve the sacred and cultural Jewish sites that are in jeopardy, daily desecration, and vandalism:

  1. The ancient medieval Jewish Quarter of Lviv declared to be restored by 37 and 39 UNESCO Assembly in Cambodia and Bohn sessions. This would include the restoration of the TaZ (Golden Rose) synagogue (studies were already sponsored by the US Ambassador's Fund in 2010-2012) .

  2. The Old Jewish cemetery of Lviv: reconstitute the boundaries according to the Court's Resolution; free the cemetery off the two open air trading markets; restore sacred sites as the green zone and the tombstones of the Jewish Sages and Giants of Jewish Culture.

  3. The New Jewish cemetery of Lviv:  reconstitute the boundaries according to the Court's Resolution; free the cemetery off the road atop the graves; restore sacred sites as the green zone and the tombstones of the Jewish Sages and Giants of Jewish Culture, the victim of pogroms.

  4. The studies of the mass graves of Ukraine.

  5. Commemoration of the victims of Holocaust.

Anti-Semitism in the Ukraine

For many years UCSJ has supported the work of Vyacheslav Lykhachev who publishes periodic reports on NATIONAL MINORITY RIGHTS MONITORING GROUP, which gives a factual review of anti-Semitic activity in Ukraine.  Vyacheslav’s 2018 Report showed that no anti-Semitic violent attacks were registered in Ukraine in 2017-2018. The number of registered acts of anti-Semitic vandalism dropped in half (12) by the end of 2018 in comparison to 2017 (24). This Report was criticized by some Jewish organizations as inaccurate.  But the critics could not produce any facts contradicting the Report.  Of course, the Report did not take into consideration the actions of the City Council in Lviv in its attempt to build a hotel on the Jewish cemeteries.  The Report was supported by Josef Zissels and the VAAD for Ukraine and is produced in the Russian language as well.


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Participation in the 64th session of the UN Committee Against Torture

 The UCSJ supported the preparation of the Report of Russian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the observance by the Russian Federation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. At the meeting experts reported on torture in prisons; investigations of torture; domestic violence and LGBT positions; deliberate mutilation of girls in the Caucasus; the state of Public Observation Commissions (POC); and of course the death of Sergei Magnitsky.  


International Religious Freedom

As in the past, the UCSJ has actively participated in the meetings of the International Religious Freedom Round Table which meets every two weeks and is almost always chaired by Ambassador at large, Sam Brownback. UCSJ is a major presence and brings an important Jewish view at the Round Table. The UCSJ regularly signs on to multi-NGO petitions about violations of human rights or religious freedom violations around the world. In October 2018 UCSJ actively participated in the Conference “Ukraine-Russia Conflict: The Religious Dimension,” called by the Religious Freedom Institute (RFI). Held at the U.S. Institute of Peace, the conference hosted Ukrainian religious leaders, scholars, and others to examine the religious aspect of the Ukraine-Russia conflict and the impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on religious freedom in the country. And in November 2018 UCSJ participated in commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Act organized by RFI.

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UCSJ other Programs and actions

·         At present, the UCSJ is a member of the workgroup at the US State Department and takes the vigorous role in communicating decision-makers on combating anti-Semitism.

·         Together with the Ukrainian human rights and religious freedom NGOs, we plan to set up a Religious Freedom Round Table in Ukraine in early 2019. This roundtable would bring together NGOs and government officials in Ukraine to lower religious tensions and hopefully end acts of anti-Semitism and religious persecution.

·         UCSJ has joined the Coalition to free Russia’s political prisoners, the purpose of which is to organize and coordinate collective actions to free Russia’s political prisoners. The Coalition might refocus the international discussion on the issue of political prisoners, ensuring them they aren’t forgotten despite Russia’s flagrant aggression towards its neighbors and deplorable domestic human rights records, including systematic imprisonment and/or elimination of political opponents.

UCSJ provides various types of support to leaders of Jewish communities in FSU states, human rights activists, and programs.