Ukrainian politician Igor Miroshnichenko has sparked the outrage of Jewish human-rights groups around the world following an antisemitic Facebook rant targeting Mila Kunis. After the Ukrainian government failed to promptly respond to the growing controversy, the Simon Wiesenthal Center became involved.
The Facebook post, uploaded last month, accuses Kunis of not being a true Ukrainian and refers to her using the offensive term "zhydovka," which some publications like TMZ translated as a "dirty Jewess." According to the Times of Israel, the term was commonly used to refer to Jews during the Holocaust, and is considered highly offensive by many Jews. Jewish rights groups have since lobbied to have the term banned from public use, but their petitions have so far been unsuccessful.
“The last time this term was used in any official way was during the Nazi occupation, when the Jews or ‘Zhyds’ of Kiev were ordered to convene in preparation for their mass murder at Babi Yar,” Eduard Dolinsky, director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, said in an interview with the Jewish news organization JTA. “The Justice Ministry and politicians should adjust their definitions and language according to what Ukrainian Jews consider offensive, and we find the word ‘zhyd’ to be just that."
In a written response, the Ukrainian ministry acknowledged that the term should not be employed by the government, but said that the word is legal and simply "archaic." The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human-rights organization based in Los Angeles, has come to Kunis' aid in a formal letter sent to the Prime Minister of Ukraine.
"Dear Prime Minister Azarov, On behalf of the 400,000 members of the Simon Wiesenthal Center… we are writing you to express our outrage and indignation against the slanders of the Svoboda Party directed against the Jewish community in the Ukraine," the organization said in the letter, which was published by TMZ. "Particularly, we want to call upon you to speak out against the heinous anti-Semitic slur directed at Ukrainian-born actress Mila Kunis by MP Igor Miroshnichenko … which as you know was the insidious slur invoked by the Nazis and their collaborators as they rounded up the Jews to murder them at Babi Yar and in the death camps."
Mila Kunis, whose star has risen considerably over the past year, especially for her highly lauded performance in "Black Swan," has spoken often about the hardships of growing up in the Ukraine as a Jew. Kunis said that she had to hide her religion in Ukraine, but knew who she was on the "inside."
“My whole family was in the Holocaust. My grandparents passed and not many survived. After the Holocaust, in Russia you were not allowed to be religious. So my parents raised me to know I was Jewish. You know who you are inside.”