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Ukraine rabbi blames state for anti-Semitic attacks

One of Ukraine’s chief rabbis wrote an open letter to the government and law enforcement agencies, accusing them of not doing enough to stop anti-Semitic attacks in a central Ukrainian city.

The letter by Chabad’s chief rabbi in the country, Azriel Chaikin, was in response to an Aug. 16 incident in Zhitomir, a former shtetl. A unidentified man broke a window in the historic synagogue during afternoon prayers, and escaped before apprehension.

Police are investigating, but no arrest has been made.

Jewish leaders in Zhitomir told JTA that Jews have increasingly been targets of violence in the town, especially if they are visibly observant.

Two years ago, Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm, the city’s Chabad rabbi, was verbally assaulted and beaten on one of the main streets.

This July, Wilhelm was attacked again in the yard of his synagogue. The same day, a group of youths tried to break into a girls’ dormitory at a Jewish school, hurling verbal insults at the students.

Earlier this month, Nohum Tamarin, executive director of the city’s branch of the Chabad-affiliated Federation of Jewish Communities, and his wife Broha Tamarina, were attacked and severely beaten near the synagogue.

In his letter this week, Chaiken blamed the authorities. He wrote that officials “either don’t have the desire or are incapable of preserving security,” and that the police “who have taken some steps to patrol the area near the synagogue, are unable to offer serious response to anti-Semitic gangs.”

Chaikin also wrote that religiously observant Jews “feel that they are in danger” in the city.

The frequency of violent attacks on Jews is high in Ukraine. Few investigations lead to arrests or successful prosecutions.

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