Jews Fearful As Moscow Synagogue Attacked for Second Time in Month

The mood among groups that monitor Jews in Russia has grown more fearful since the main Moscow synagogue was attacked this week for the second time in a month.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, chief rabbi of Moscow, told the World Jewish Congress that shortly before dawn Monday, youths reportedly wearing black uniforms threw bricks through two of the synagogue windows and tried to break down the main doors.

Goldschmidt, who is now in Israel, received the report from the synagogue’s caretaker, who witnessed the attack and called the police.

The police showed up after the perpetrators had already fled, as happened after the earlier attack in June.

Mark Levin, executive director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, said, “I think this (second attack) highlights what we’ve been saying for a long time now, that popular anti-Semitism remains a real threat, and it is articulated in many different forms.”

Asked if Jews in Moscow are apprehensive, he said, “I think they are obviously concerned about the repeat of an incident.”

Levin spoke to Michael Chlenov, co-president of the Vaad, which represents Jewish groups in the former Soviet Union. Chlenov told him that the Vaad has been working with the synagogue leadership to work out an agreement to provide better protection for the synagogue.

“We have informed our State Department about this as well as the Russian Embassy in Washington,” Levin said.

Jewish groups have been in contact with the Russian ambassador to Washington, Vladimir Lukin, requesting a 24-hour police guard at the synagogue.

Goldschmidt requested police protection for the synagogue at the time of the earlier attack, which occurred June 13, but nothing resulted.

POLICE GUARD EXPECTED IN A WEEK

But Rabbi Adolf Shayevitch, chief rabbi of Russia, reached at home in Moscow, said that some municipal representatives had shown up at the synagogue on Tuesday saying a police guard would be placed there within a week.

“It is not only the acts of the hooligans which are so gravely disturbing but the failure of police authorities to give proper protection to the synagogue that concern us,” said Israel Singer, WJC secretary-general.

This latest attack on Moscow’s main synagogue took place almost exactly one month after the first. The coincidence is “very interesting,” said Leonid Stonov, international director of the human rights bureau in Moscow of the Union of Councils, formerly called the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews.

Stonov, a former refusenik who now works out of Chicago, said he had spoken to many people in the former Soviet Union and they are fearful.

The mood for the vandalism was set, he said, by the recent proliferation of anti-Semitic leaflets and signs in the former Soviet Union.

“There are slogans on public transportation vehicles, especially in Moscow and St. Petersburg. It wasn’t (that way) before,” Stonov said.

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