Exit polls in Ukraine’s elections indicate the country has elected a Jewish president – comedian Volodymyr Zelensky – in a dramatic win of some 70 percent of the votes over incumbent Petro Poroshenko, who conceded defeat Sunday evening, and congratulated Zelensky.
Once all the ballot are counted, the government of Ukraine will be the only one in the world whose two top leaders will both be Jewish, other than the State of Israel.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister, Volodymyr Groysman, is also Jewish, and faces a parliamentary vote later this year.
Zelensky’s mother Rima is Jewish, a fact that he acknowledges but does not emphasize in media interviews.
Speaking with French Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy earlier this month in the weekly Le Point, Zelensky said, “The fact that I am Jewish barely makes 20 in my long list of faults.”
A political novice, it’s not yet clear how he will deal with the rampant anti-Semitism in the country, nor what direction he will take with the increasing efforts by Russia to take control of Ukrainian territory in the east.
But Zelensky’s overwhelming popularity as an entertainer may stand him in good stead as he tries to forge a new path in a country that has seen too much hatred of Jews for far too long, and too much bloodshed on the eastern front.