Odessa Jewish community mulls emergency evacuation

‘Future looking very violent,’ fears local rabbi; Jewish community hunkers down, tries to ride out the storm.

Odessa’s Jews are prepared to evacuate should the violence in the western Ukrainian city get significantly worse, several community leaders told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

Odessa’s Jewish community numbers some 30,000, down from nearly 40 percent of the city’s population before the Holocaust.

Running street battles between pro-Russian and nationalist forces claimed dozens of lives in the Black Sea port this weekend, culminating in the burning of dozens of pro-Russian protesters in the city’s trade union building on Friday evening.

The Odessa bloodshed came on the same day that Kiev launched its biggest push yet to reassert its control over separatist areas in the east, hundreds of kilometers away, where armed pro-Russian rebels have proclaimed a “People’s Republic of Donetsk.”

While the situation has not deteriorated to the point where an evacuation is necessary, he said, “we have a number of plans.”

The Chabad hassidic community also has plans for evacuation ready, local emissary Rabbi Avraham Wolf said.

Chabad institutions remained open over the weekend but with extra security measures, such as armed guards.

“We are in touch with authorities and with security services, and we do a situation check every half hour,” he said.

The Jewish community, together with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, has prepared a fleet of 70 buses, fueled and ready to go, “if, God forbid, we have to evacuate” the community’s children and any adults who want to leave, he said.

During Friday’s clashes, 20 buses were parked outside of Chabad’s school, but went unused.

Chosen segments from JPost. By SAM SOKOL

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