By: Shlomit Ebbin  | 

As Russian Invasion Continues, YU Issues Statement In Support of Ukraine

YU issued a statement supporting Ukraine on social media on Feb. 25 in response to Russia’s military offensive in the country, which began on Thursday, Feb. 24.

“Yeshiva University stands with all people of conscience in our support of Ukraine,” the university’s statement read. “We pray for the safety of the innocent and the quick arrival of peace. May this Shabbat usher in peace and tranquility to Ukraine and the world at large.” While the statement was not sent to students or faculty, it was posted on YU’s official Facebook and Twitter accounts.

After amassing over 100,000 troops at the Ukrainian border over the last few months, Russia launched a full-scale invasion into the neighboring country on Thursday. Ukraine has managed to slow the Russian advance near Kyiv and in other regions of the country. 

Many countries throughout the world, including the U.S., Israel and the European Union, condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions as a flagrant violation of international law. President Joe Biden and other Western leaders have already implemented new sanctions on Russia. As of publication, Russia and Ukraine have agreed to send delegations for talks at Ukraine’s border with Belarus on Monday morning, Feb. 28.

Since Friday night, those davening in the Glueck Beit Midrash have been saying Tehillim for Ukraine and the world, Rosh Yeshiva and Mashgiach Ruchani Rabbi Yosef Blau told The Commentator. “Rabbi Penner’s talk at Seudat Shlishit [this past Shabbat] included a condemnation of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and of China’s treatment of the Uyghurs,” he added.

YU is also set to hold a roundtable on Monday, Feb. 28 of YU historians and political scientists to discuss the “unfolding situation in Ukraine.” 

The round table is co-sponsored by Rabbi Arthur Schneier Program for International Affairs, YU Political Action Club, Dunner Political Science Society, Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, YU College Democrats, YU College Republicans and the Emil A. and Jenny Fish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. The event will feature Prof. Joshua Zimmerman, Director of Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies Shay Pilnik, Associate Professor of Jewish History and Associate Director of Center for Israel Studies Joshua Karlip, Clinical Assistant Professor of Political Science Maria Zaitseva, Associate Professor of Jewish History Jess Olson and Adjunct Professor of Political Science Dina Shvetsov. 

Zaitseva shared insight with The Commentator on the unfolding situation. “For now, the situation is going from bad to worse,” she said. “While Putin's endgame remains largely unclear (although speculations about it abound), I suspect that he foresaw a rather quick takeover without significant amount of resistance from Ukraine. He was wrong. The next 24-48 hours may be critical.”

“Our history has taught us that while wars can change the reality on the ground, they never resolve these conflicts and that only dialogue and collaboration between partner nations can lead to peace,” added Pilnik. “The worst case scenario is that this conflict will intensify and turn into a full scale war, resembling the Russian war in Chechnya more than a decade ago. I also fear the possibility that it would spill to other countries, including Israel and other nations in the Middle East”

Alex Friedman (YC ‘22), co-president of the Dunner Political Science Society, felt that student engagement is critical. “As Russia continues to attack Ukraine, it is important for YU students to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people and concern for what is happening,” he said. “Fortunately, we have a group of experts from within our own university who can give us perspective and clarity on this tragic situation,” a reference to Monday night’s event.

“The history of the Holocaust, and particularly in Ukraine … has taught us that violence has a powerful and dangerous numbing effect,” said Pilnik. “It is easy to get used to the escalation of violence as it turns from the killing of individual combatants to full-scale mass murder targeting innocent civilians. We, who know what the past of Europe was like, have to do anything to stop the violence now, before it is too late”.

“As difficult and upsetting it is to see the leadership of your country of birth wage a completely senseless and unprovoked war on another state, I am heartened by the massive outpouring of support for Ukraine and its people from so many places and peoples around the world,” said Zaitseva. “These are unnerving times, and the world has been here before. May we learn at least some lessons from the past."

This article was updated on March 1 to include comments from Prof. Pilnik.

Photo Caption: The statement was posted on Friday, Feb. 25.

Photo Credit: Yeshiva University