Bomb Mars Moscow Synagogue; Rabbi Calls Attack ‘anti-semitic’

A bomb blast ripped through a Moscow synagogue last week, causing no injuries but seriously damaging the 3-story building.

“This was clearly an anti-Semitic act,” said Berel Lazar, the rabbi at the Lubavitch synagogue and the chairman of the Rabbinical Alliance of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The explosion, caused by a homemade bomb planted outside the synagogue, shattered windows in the building’s southern facade and tore off sections of the roof.

The force of the blast knocked over Torah scrolls in the synagogue’s ark. The scrolls were not damaged, members of the community said.

Windows of neighboring houses also broke.

“This is a terrible act of vandalism,” said 72-year-old Vladimir Kutyin, who has lived near the synagogue since childhood. Kutyin, a veteran who is not Jewish, also said, “I’m ashamed of the Russian people who let such things happen in our country. I fought side by side with many Jews against the Nazis.”

The brick synagogue reopened in June, replacing a wooden one that burnt down in 1993 as a result of arson.

Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov, who attended the June opening of the synagogue, said at the time, “The city authorities will never tolerate the slightest display of inequality or oppression toward the Jews.”

Vladimir Porokhov, district police chief, said last Friday that he was determined to capture those responsible for the bombing.

No one has been apprehended in connection with the bombing, Mark Levin, executive director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, said in a telephone interview Sunday from Maryland.

Except for a guard, no one was inside the synagogue at the time of the Aug. 22 bombing, which occurred at night.

Lazar said people usually study in the synagogue at night, but that on the night of the bombing, many of those people were at a wedding in another part of the city.

The wedding was originally scheduled to take place at the synagogue, Levin said, adding, “Had the wedding not been moved, there would have been serious loss of human life.”

“The bomb was strategically placed to do the maximum amount of damage,” Levin said.

He said his organization plans to follow up with both U.S. and Russian government officials.

Levin said that during the weekend, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Thomas Pickering visited the damaged synagogue.

The combination of the bombing and the arson fire “puts the Jewish community as a whole in Moscow on edge,” Levin said.

Lazar said, “If our parents fought against communism, today we have to fight against hooliganism. The best way to fight it is to show that we are not intimidated by such acts. We will continue to build the Jewish community under any circumstances.”

The blast came a day after construction began on a new Jewish community center, to be located next to the synagogue. The new center is the biggest project of its kind being carried out in Russia since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The synagogue, located in the Maryina Roshcha section of Moscow, was first built in what used to be a Jewish neighborhood.

The wooden synagogue was constructed on the site where the city’s first Chasidic house of worship was situated.

In December 1993, the 70-year-old wooden synagogue was destroyed by an act of arson.

No one has been charged in connection with that crime.

(JTA staff writer Alissa Kaplan in New York contributed to this report.)

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