Friday, April 09, 2010

Kyrgyz Jews sit tight as government is toppled

The 1,500 Jews in the central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan sit tight as the capital, Bishkek, is gripped by revolution, JTA reports.

MOSCOW (JTA) – As the capital of Kyrgyzstan erupted in violence Wednesday, members of the Central Asian nation’s small Jewish community held their breath and sat tight.

The ORT school in the capital, Bishkek, shuttered its doors, sending students home just as they were returning from their Passover break. With public transportation suspended and the city in disarray, only three people made it to morning services at the local synagogue. Meanwhile, Jewish community leaders exchanged frantic phone calls, updating each other about the situation on the street.

By the end of the day Wednesday, opposition protestors had stormed the presidential compound, overwhelmed the police and taken control of the government. The president, Kurmanbek Bakiev, had fled, and more than 40 people had been killed. On Thursday, a former foreign minister announced he was leading a new, transitional government, which would last six months.

It was not immediately clear where this one-day revolution would leave the country -- or its estimated 1,500 Jews, most of whom live in Bishkek.

“The situation is the city remains unstable, but the Jewish community has not suffered so far,” Kyrgyzstan’s chief rabbi, Arieh Reichman, told JTA. “All the community leaders keep in touch with each other and with the community members, mostly by phone. I have been contacted by an Israeli foundation that could provide us with humanitarian aid. But the situation is not as bad so far, and hopefully things will calm down in the near future.”

More than half of Bishkek’s Jews are on community welfare, receiving aid through the local Hesed center, which is sponsored by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Asher Ostrin, the executive director of JDC’s operations in the former Soviet Union, said the community was working to ensure that its Jewish welfare clients experience no disruption during the unrest.

Read article in full

ORT school closes amid violence

Synagogue attacked

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