As Russian Jews Mark Holidays, Vandals Attack a New Synagogue

Two anti-Semitic incidents, including an attack on a synagogue that was recently opened with the help of U.S. Jews, have marred the commemoration of the High Holidays in Russia.

A single shotgun blast was fired on Yom Kippur eve at a window of the synagogue, located in the northwestern Russian town of Borovichi.

Edward Alexeev, leader of the Borovichi Jewish community, believes the shooter wanted to damage the congregation’s only Torah scroll, which was donated by a Miami synagogue, but missed.

In an earlier incident, which took place before Rosh Hashanah, vandals desecrated dozens of graves in a Jewish cemetery in Astrakhan, 1,200 miles south of Moscow.

Twenty-eight tombstones were toppled and destroyed and 25 more stones were damaged or spray-painted, according to Lev Bolotin, who heads the local Jewish religious community.

Vandals have targeted Borovichi’s Beth Torah Synagogue several times since it was dedicated in August.

In those attacks, Alexeev said, several windows were broken and dead cats and birds were hung on the shul’s front door.

Police have launched a criminal investigation into the latest incident.

During the past two years, the ultranationalist group Russian National Unity threatened Borovichi’s Jews with violence, putting up anti-Semitic posters across the town, home to some 90,000 people.

Last year the small Jewish community of Borovichi launched an international campaign when Jewish officials there reported an increase in neo-Nazi activities.

As a result of the campaign, which was led by the Bay Area Council for Jewish Rescue and Renewal in San Francisco, municipal authorities granted a space to Jews in the town’s central square for the synagogue.

In the wake of the latest incidents, a Russian Jewish umbrella group urged local authorities in both Borovichi and Astrakhan to take the necessary steps to investigate the attacks and prevent future acts of anti-Semitism.

“We are concerned and outraged by this outbreak of anti-Semitism in Russia,” Zinovy Kogan, the executive director of the Congress of Jewish Religious Organizations and Communities of Russia, said in a statement.

“The shooting in Borovichi and the pogrom in the cemetery in Astrakhan during the Jewish holidays is nothing else but a new challenge to the Jewish community of Russia.”

“We call on politicians across the spectrum and ordinary Russians to show zero tolerance for such acts.”

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