Ukrainian chief rabbi joins interfaith memorial


KIEV, Ukraine (JTA ) — One of Ukraine’s two chief rabbis joined prayers for victims of the Stalin-era Great Famine. 

Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich along with top Ukrainian officials, members of parliament, public and cultural figures, and representatives of other faiths participated Saturday in a memorial service for victims of the Holodomor, or Great Famine, of 1932-33 in Ukraine. Ukraine marked Freedom Day on Saturday.

Bleich, however, refused to jointly conduct a prayer with other religious leaders in the St. Sophia Cathedral of Kiev.

“Christian and Muslim leaders jointly conducted the service and prayed but Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich refused, referring to the Shabbat,” Dr. Aleksandr Sagan, minister for nationalities and religions in Ukraine, told JTA.

Among other commemorations Saturday, religious leaders addressed 44 foreign delegations, including the presidents of Georgia, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as representatives of international organizations and religious leaders who attended an international forum.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko thanked the 13 countries that have recognized the Holodomor as an act of genocide, and a number of international organizations that have denounced the Holodomor as a crime against humankind.

Russia has refused to recognize Holodomor as genocide, while Israel is still considering Yushchenko’s call to recognize it as such.

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