William Taylor, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, pledged that in future dealings with Kiev, he would once again raise the issue of Torah scrolls currently in the hands of Ukraine's archives.

The diplomat made the comments in a meeting last week with Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Azriel Chaikin, chief rabbi of Ukraine. The pair sat down at the chief rabbinate's offices in Kiev, where they lamented a seeming government inaction when it came to issues of anti-Semitism and xenophobia.


"I do not believe the level of anti-Semitism in Ukraine is high. On the contrary, I think it is very low, especially when compared to other countries," said Chaikin. "But the state is silent when it comes to manifestations of xenophobia. In Ukraine there are no laws that prevent the incitement of ethnic and religious-hatred. We insist that each case of anti-Semitism become the subject of a thorough investigation."

Chaikin briefed the ambassador on a legislative package he discussed with Alexander Sagan, the new chairman of Ukraine's State Committee on Ethnic and Religious Affairs, which would mandate the return of Torah scrolls seized from Jewish communal institutions last year. In its seizures, the state maintained that the scrolls, acquired by the archives through looting during World War II and the ensuing years, could only be used as museum pieces instead of religious worship.

"Today, the archives can only deposit Torahs with us, without the right to restore them, repair them, or use them in worship," said the rabbi. "We demand the [full] return of the Torahs, not only as an act of justice, but because they belonged to our communities" in the first place.