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Graphic: The shape of Ukraine berry color against blue background, rays go from it.

Ukraine in Context

Jewish Perspectives on Ukraine, Present and Past: A Discussion Series

Ukraine was once home to the second-largest Jewish population in Europe, including countless communities shaped by many influences: from the Czarist Empire in the east to the Hapsburg Monarchy in the West, from secular modernity in the major cities to the abiding traditions of the shtetl; from the free port of Odesa on the Black sea to the intellectual metro­polis of Kharkiv. Ukraine is the birthplace of Hasidism, of modern Jewish and Hebrew literature, and of Zionism.

Contemporary Ukraine is inextricably bound up with Jewish history. The memories of many Jews in the Diaspora are dominated by experiences of poverty, persecution, mass murder, and exodus during the early 20th century. Mean­while, the Jewish immi­grants who came from the disintegrating Soviet republics to Germany in the 1970s and after 1989 brought along entirely different memories. In the urban spaces of today’s Ukraine, Jewish life remains ever-present despite the destruction of the Shoah and has prompted new forms of identi­fication, not least through the Maidan Uprising and the struggle for inde­pendence and autonomy. Yet now, both the country’s existence as an independent state and the very lives of its population – including the country’s Jewish community – are existentially threatened by Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Once again, the inhabi­tants are bearing wit­ness to massive death and destruction, danger and dis­placement.

The Jewish Museum Berlin, the German Federal Agency for Civic Education, and OFEK are coming together for a discussion series to make Jewish perspectives on and from the war audible and visible and shed light on the com­plexities of present-day Ukraine. We invite you to connect with Ukrainian artists, scholars, and activists and to immerse your­selves in the many facets of the Jewish present in and from Ukraine. Together we will visit cities as “intersections of many worlds” (to quote Karl Schlögel): on journeys to Kharkiv, Lviv, Chernivtsi, Odesa, Dnipro, and a stop in Berlin as a place of refuge, we will talk about life and survival in war, about plural affiliations and competing memories, identities, and visions of cities and histories.

A discussion series of the German Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung/bpb), the Jewish Museum Berlin and OFEK e.V.

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