Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich,
Chief Rabbi of Ukraine
Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1964. He studied at Yeshiva Karlin Stolin and graduated Telshe Yeshiva High School in Chicago, where he began his rabbinical studies. From 1984 – 1986, he studied at the Karlin Stolin Rabbinical Institute in Jerusalem, and he received his rabbinical ordination at Yeshiva Karlin Stolin in Brooklyn. Rabbi Bleich is married and has eight children.
In 1989, Rabbi Bleich and his wife moved to Kiev, Ukraine. In 1990, Rabbi Bleich was appointed Chief Rabbi of Kiev and Ukraine, and has served in that post since, working from less than nothing, Rabbi Bleich was tasked with restoring all facets of Jewish life and education in Ukraine after its suffering almost total destruction before and during the Holocaust. Rabbi Bleich has made tremendous efforts to bring about a renaissance in Jewish education and welfare. Rabbi Bleich founded many Jewish educational institutions, including Jewish Boarding School and gymnasium #299, the Jewish Kindergarten, the Shuva Camp, Yeshiva and Machon Orach Chaim, the Midrasha Tzionit Educational Centre for Adults, and the Orach Chaim International Camp. In 1997, the President of Israel honored Rabbi Bleich with the International Award of Jerusalem for his contributions to the development of Jewish education in the Diaspora.
In 992, Rabbi Bleich founded the Union of Jewish Religious Organizations of Ukraine. He currently serves as the organization’s president. He was a cofounder of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine in 1999. Rabbi Bleich is dedicated to expanding charitable activities and care for the poor, as well as securing the return of Jewish property that was confiscated by the Soviet Union. He is working on developing the infrastructure of Jewish communities, cultural, educational and religious organizations. He also coordinates the activities of other rabbis in Ukraine. Rabbi Bleich is extremely attentive to the needs of Holocaust Survivors. He founded an assisted living facility for Holocaust Survivors with funding assistance from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews that opened in Kiev in 2005. The home also provides a wonderful socialization opportunity for many who live in the community.
Rabbi Bleich is highly respected by the Ukrainian government and is often called on to participate in governmental projects. In 1999, Rabbi Bleich was awarded the Medal for Outstanding Service, 3rd degree, for his outstanding contribution to the development of Ukraine. Rabbi Bleich has brought about significant advances in improving inter-religious and inter-ethnic relations in Ukraine and around the world. In 1996, he became a member of the Executive Board of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and currently serves as vice president. In 1994, he was a founding member of the Council of Churches and Religious Organizations of Ukraine, since 2009 a co-chair. Since 2001, he has been vice president of the European Council of Jewish Communities, vice president of European Jewish Congress and vice president of the European Conference of Rabbis. Finally, in December 2013, Rabbi Bleich was invited to be a committee member of the Special Planning Commission of the Claims Conference by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany.