KIEV, Ukraine, Feb. 8 (JTA) Ukraine’s state television will start a new weekly Jewish-themed show to replace a previous one that was canceled under controversial circumstances earlier this year. The new show will be produced by journalists affiliated with the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine, a Chabad-led group. A few weeks ago, Ukraine’s state television company, NKTU, decided to cancel the “Mazel Tov” show after five seasons. That show was produced by a company affiliated with Vadim Rabinovich, a Ukrainian business tycoon and Jewish leader who is the head of the of the All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress and the United Jewish Community of Ukraine. The show is the latest evidence of competition between Rabinovich’s groups and the Chabad-linked federation regarding which is the leading group representing the Jewish community. Last month, Rabinovich suggested that the state television’s decision to cancel “Mazel Tov” was politically motivated, a charge that state television officials denied. Now some Jewish leaders, including Rabinovich himself, are questioning whether the Chabad federation could have influenced the earlier decision to cancel “Mazel Tov” in order to have state television run its own Jewish-themed show instead. For its part, Chabad denies this accusation. The conflict is not the first between Chabad and Rabinovich. In one incident, the dedication last year of a synagogue in the town of Sumy was marred after Rabinovich prevented a local Chabad rabbi from speaking, sending his “own” rabbi to the ceremony instead. On Feb. 1, state television officials and leaders of the Federation of Jewish Communities signed an agreement that allows Chabad to present its own 30-minute weekly Jewish-themed show to be aired over the state-owned UT-1 television channel. The team in charge of the new show is headed by Oleg Rostovtsev, a Chabad spokesman in Ukraine based in the eastern city of Dnepropetrovsk, where for years he has served as producer and anchor of a local Jewish TV show, also released under the auspices of the Chabad federation. Despite the new show’s Chabad connection, federation leaders said they would target a wide audience, Jewish and non-Jewish. “It is very important to acquaint Ukrainian viewers regardless of their ethnicity and faith with the fascinating world of Jewish culture and tradition,” said Rabbi Meir Stambler, head of the federation’s board. The federation said it invited all Jewish groups in Ukraine to support the new TV show. Indeed, many Jewish organizations received letters from Stambler that tried to assure them the new show will not be used as a public relations tool serving only Chabad. Stambler also wrote to Rabinovich seeking his support. “We are open to discuss new ideas, forms of cooperation and creative solutions,” Stambler’s letter reads. In response, Rabinovich said he would support any Jewish media-project that “truly and honestly covers real life.” However, Rabinovich described the state television decision to change the team in charge of its Jewish show “a victory” of one Jewish organization over another. Some Jewish leaders echoed this view. “This is not a good step on the part of the federation,” said Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, a longtime supporter of Rabinovich. Azman suggested that the show’s replacement “was probably planned by the federation beforehand.” Rostovtsev denied the accusation, saying his group first learned about “Mazel Tov” being canceled only when Rabinovich went public about it last month. “We then decided to save the show and produce a new Jewish media project,” he said. The Ukrainian Jewish community today has a dozen Jewish-themed weekly shows on local airwaves in the provinces, some 50 Jewish newspapers mainly monthlies and several radio shows. But many leading figures in the country’s Jewish community believe that the situation surrounding the Jewish show on Ukrainian national television reflects the lack of unity in Ukrainian Jewry. “The situation with the controversial cancellation of one Jewish show and replacing it with another brightly mirrors the general situation in the community that now has several chief rabbis,” said Mikhail Frenkel, the head of the Association of Jewish Media in Ukraine.
Chabad snags ´Jewish slot´ on Ukraine TV