Ukraine to consider granting official recognition to Jewish festivals

Ukraine's government will consider the matter following a decree issued by President Volodymyr Zelensky


Ukraine is to consider granting official recognition to Jewish festivals after a decree signed by Jewish President Volodymyr Zelensky endorsed the move, acknowledging Ukraine’s “multinational and multi-confessional” character.

President Zelensky signed the decree on July 30, which would see Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Chanukah granted “official status” along with a number of Muslim and non-Ukrainian Orthodox Christian festivals.

The issue will now be considered by the Ukrainian government, in cooperation with the Ukrainian Church, religious organisations and the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance – a historical research body under the Ukrainian government. 

Presently, only Orthodox and Catholic Christmas, Easter and Trinity Sunday are officially recognised.

President Zelensky’s decree stated that broadening the number of official religious holidays would “realise equal rights and opportunities for all believers” and “honour the history, culture and traditions of Ukrainian society”.

Earlier this week, President Zelensky – a comedian turned politician – declared his support for the ongoing construction of a new memorial at Babi Yar, the site of one of the worst massacres of Jews during the Holocaust, outside of Kiev.

Speaking with members of the supervisory board of the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Foundation, President Zelensky said that the memorial, which is due to open in 2021, was “very important for our country”.

He said that “we must remember” the “tragic page” of Ukrainian history, adding that they ought to be “in our stories, in memories, in books”.

Approximately 33,771 Jews were murdered on 29-30 September 1941 by the Nazis and Ukrainian auxiliaries, in one of the largest mass killing of Jews on Soviet territory.

It is estimated that between 100,000-150,000 Jews, Soviet prisoners of war, Roma and Ukrainian nationalists were murdered at Babi Yar at later dates.  

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