This week, on Passover eve, Jews ages 16 and older in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine were handed flyers demanding that all Jews register with the government, or else. "Evasion of registration will result in citizenship revoke and you will be forced outside the country with a confiscation of property," according to Ynet News, Israel's largest news site.
Jews coming out of synagogues after prayer were met by armed, masked men who handed them the leaflet bearing the stamps of the self-proclaimed People's Republic of Donetsk. The reason cited for the demanded registration is that Jews' leaders in Ukraine "oppose the pro-Slavic People's Republic of Donetsk," and they supported Bendery Junta, which is a reference to a Ukrainian leader who fought for independence way back at the end of World War II.
It would seem that those demanding registration have not forgotten their history. It would do well for others not to forget history either. The requirements sound chillingly similar to those of Hitler's regime, where six million Jews were eventually murdered. "This reminds me of texts from darker times," said Olga Reznikova of Donetsk. "Other members of the Jewish community I spoke with are not afraid, but it is unpleasant."
The Ukraine province of Denetsk is home to 10% of the population of Ukraine - 4.3 million people, 17,000 of whom are Jews. Because it is a heavily industrial area, it is considered a prize to Russia. Pro-Russian forces have captured government buildings in the past week in that part of Ukraine.
Items that are needed for registration by the Jews were made quite clear:
"ID and passport are required to register your Jewish religion, religious documents of family members, as well as documents establishing the rights to all real estate property that belongs to you, including vehicles."
Historically, registration with tyrannical governments has been for the purpose of identification, regulation, and eventual elimination of particular groups. Though the Jewish Holocaust is the most familiar instance of this in recent history, the practice dates back into ancient history. Sadly, Jews have too often been the brunt of such practices.
Olga of Ukraine told Ynet News, "I do not intend to register, I am 32, I have lived in Donetsk my entire life and have never had to deal with anti-Semitism until I laid eyes on this piece of paper. Though I take it very seriously, I am uncertain of its authenticity."
There appears to be uncertainty of the official-looking document's origins. It was written in Russian, and distributed to Jews throughout the Donetsk region of Ukraine. According to Jenia from Israel, "the Jews in Donetsk are uncertain of anything; it is unclear who is responsible for the leaflet and who controls the city at the moment." She received the letter from a Jewish acquaintance.
Denis Pushilin, the chairman of "Donetsk's temporary government" in Ukraine has denied connection to the content of the flyer, but has confirmed that his organization did indeed distribute them to the Jews.
Townhall reports that Israeli officials are in talks to figure out how to handle the situation.
It is certainly a tense season for Jews living in Ukraine. A shadow has been cast over Passover celebrations this week, as they reflect on God's deliverance out of the land of Egypt. Perhaps the Passover reminders will give strength to the Jewish people facing the Russians in the Donetsk region of Ukraine.
[images via bing and Twitter]