Jewish life in Ukraine can be traced back to the ninth century A.D. Much of it has been littered with cases of trauma and hardship. In the twentieth century, devastating events that affected Ukrainian Jews included pogroms carried out by Ukrainian nationalist forces after World War 1, as well as the brutal acts of the Holocaust carried out on Ukrainian territory─most famously the murder of more than 33,000 Jews at Babi Yar, Ukraine in 1941.
Despite this turbulent history, Ukraine has been for centuries, the birthplace of important Jewish writers and poets. Also, Ukraine was a major center of the modern Zionist movement.
The history of the Ukrainian Jewish emigration provides context to the current exodus. One of the events in that history was the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea and occupation of eastern Ukraine. Large
Numbers of Jews from Ukraine and Russia immigrated to Israel, and also, to the U.S. and Germany. The February 24, 2022, Russian invasion of Ukraine caused an influx of Ukrainian Jews to Israel and the neighboring European countries.
Because of the mass immigration, the Jewish population in Ukraine has greatly declined over the last thirty years. Therefore, the estimated number of Jews in Ukraine before 2022 (close to 250,000) may have been too high.
Israel’s “Law of Return” was launched to help Jewish immigrants originating in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus to find a new home in Israel. According to Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, more than 40,000 Jews from the mentioned countries have immigrated to Israel since February 2022. Those who have temporarily relocated to other countries, face an unknown future with hopes that they may one day return home in Ukraine.
Window of the Synagogue in Kyiv, reflecting the Babi Yar dramatic events
(References: Jewish Policy Research and online news posts)