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Volodymyr Zelenskyy

For Many Jews Watching Ukraine’s War, Vlodymyr Zelenskyy is a ‘Modern Maccabee’

One week ago, Jews outside of Ukraine knew Volodymyr Zelenskyy as the world leader on the other end of the “perfect phone call” that resulted in the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

But now, after days of watching Zelenskyy balance humor and gravitas while rallying his fellow Ukrainians to rebuff the Russian army invasion, they know him as a contemporary Jewish hero.

“Zelenskyy gives modern Maccabee energy,” Peter Fox, a writer, wrote on Twitter.

Fox was referring to the ancient Jews who, though outflanked in every way, fended off the efforts of foreign fighters, directed by a power-hungry ruler, to quash their independence and culture.

That history can be seen as an apt comparison for what’s happening in Ukraine — and it’s one of several reasons that Zelenskyy’s leadership is resonating so much with Jews the world over.

“As a Jew, it is impossible not to feel proud of the courage, dignity, and defiance shown by Zelenskyy at this moment,” Molly Crabapple, a prominent leftist writer and artist, said in a tweet late Friday night, shortly after Zelenskyy posted a video showing him in the center of Kyiv, defiant in the face of encroaching Russian forces.

In Tel Aviv, people rallying for Ukraine chanted Zelenskyy’s name. A tweet by a former Israeli speechwriter encouraging people to pray for him by his Hebrew name was shared tens of thousands of times over the weekend. And multiple memes ricocheted around the internet highlighting Zelenskyy as a powerful embodiment of Jewish pride.

“This is Volodymyr Zelenskyy. President of Ukraine. He is Jewish. His grandfather fought Nazis in WWII. Many of his relatives were killed in the Holocaust,” said one of them, shared by Good, a media company. “He is standing up to a dictator. Because he is brave. Because he knows what happens if you don’t.” (INN / VFI News)

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