Moldovan Jews help elect Communists


MOSCOW, Feb. 27 (JTA) – The mostly elderly Jewish community of Moldova joined much of the country in backing the Communist Party’s stunning electoral victory this week.

The ongoing economic crisis in Europe’s poorest country fueled the Communists’ victory in Moldova, a former Soviet republic of approximately 4.5 million people that lies between Ukraine and Romania.

“I don’t really believe the Communist comeback means any revolutionary change. It is all economically motivated. All people, including Jews, are sick and tired of the economic collapse, the poverty, the terrible unemployment,” Nora Leoshkevitch, the editor of a Jewish newspaper in Chisinau, Moldova’s capital, told JTA.

Jewish organizations in Chisinau, better known to Jews as Kishinev, said middle-aged and elderly Jews – the majority in the roughly 30,000-strong Jewish community – voted for the Communists on Sunday out of nostalgia and a desire for increased social services, while younger Jewish voters opted for pro-Western parties.

But younger Jews are becoming a rare species in Moldova. Most have already emigrated to Israel, to the United States, Russia or Germany – or are preparing to do so.

The Jewish Agency for Israel reported 1,700 Jews immigrated to Israel from Moldova in 2000, a 40 percent increase from 1999 – mostly because of economic duress.

Moldova suffers from a lack of basic supplies and undergoes routine power outages.

As a result of their first victory in Moldova since the country gained its independence in 1991, the Communists will hold 67 seats in the 101-seat Moldovan Parliament.

Observers note that the Communists could push for Moldova to move closer to Russia, including the possibility of Moldova joining Russia and Belarus in a Slavic alliance.

Vladimir Voronin, the head of the Communist Party, told Russian television on Monday that he discussed the possibility of such an alliance with Russian President Vladimir Putin in January and that he will call a referendum on the matter soon.

Voronin, who is ethnically Russian, says one of the new Parliament’s first steps should be to make Russian an official language.

The majority of Moldovans speak Romanian.

But some Jewish activists in Moldova are concerned that this step could aggravate social tensions and encourage extremists.

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