By MARCY OSTER
NEW YORK CITY (JTA) – Volodymyr Zelensky, a Jewish actor and comedian, was sworn in Monday, May 20, as president of Ukraine and said his nation must defend their land like Israelis.
Zelensky took the oath of office reportedly on a copy of the country’s constitution and a 16th-century manuscript of the New Testament.
“We must become Icelanders in football, Israelis in defending our native land, Japanese in technology,” he said at the swearing-in, the BBC reported.
Zelensky announced at the inauguration that he would dissolve the parliament and call early elections, which had been scheduled for October. In turn, Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, has announced that he would resign.
Zelensky, who on his primetime television show plays a teacher thrust into the presidency through an unlikely chain of events, was elected last month with 73 percent of the vote, defeating incumbent Petro Poroshenko, who had been in power since 2014.
Born in Kryvyi Rih, near Dnipro, to a Jewish family of scientists, Zelensky rarely speaks of his Jewish ancestry in interviews. But unlike some Ukrainian politicians widely believed to have Jewish roots, Zelensky during his campaign neither disputed his Jewish ancestry nor attempted to camouflage it.