Jewish veterans of the Soviet Red Army, representatives of the Israeli government, and Jewish community dignitaries convened at the United Nations on Wednesday, May 21 to usher in a new Jewish holiday celebrating the rescue of European Jewry in 1945. Israel’s UN Ambassador Ron Prosor, president of the American Forum of Russian Speaking Jewry, Dr. Igor Branovan, and hundreds of New York-area Red Army Jewish veterans wearing their World War II regalia gathered to celebrate and officially announce the new Jewish observance. Among the new holiday’s advocates is Russian-Jewish leader German Zakharyaev, president of the STMEGI foundation.
In recent months, the Russian-Jewish community, led by Zakharyaev, turned to Jewish communities around the world to call for a wider, global Jewish recognition of the rescue of European Jewry. The community joined forces with the American Forum of Russian Speaking Jewry, and won the support of others, including Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal, The World Zionist Organization (WZO), the Israeli government, Israel’s chief rabbis and chief rabbis from Europe.
Perhaps the most important holiday in Russia, “Victory Day” on May 9 is also celebrated around the world in countries with major Russian émigré populations, including in Israel, where Jewish immigrants who served in the Red Army proudly march in their military finery. With more than 1.6 million Jews from the FSU, Israel officially recognized the holiday in 2000.
To mark the liberation of European Jewry from the Nazis, the new holiday’s supporters chose the Hebrew date of Iyar 26, which corresponds with May 9, 1945 (and falling this year on May 26), to be called “Rescue Day of European Jewry.” That Hebrew date fell this year on May 26. Israeli officials and communal groups convened at the UN to formally announce the new global Jewish holiday.
“As Jews we are proud to gather at the UN for this historic celebration honoring a great victory over evil,” said Zakharyaev. “While it’s important to remember the Holocaust’s end, we must still remain vigilant even today, as the Jewish communities throughout the FSU feel insecure amid instability in Ukraine.”