Spotlight: Rising anti-Semitism in Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine (JTA) – Ukraine has experienced a surge in anti-Semitic attacks and incidents over the past few weeks:

Sept. 27, Zhitomir: Four youths lurking near a local synagogue ambushed an Israeli citizen, Mendel Likhshtein, who had just left the building after evening prayers. Likely because there were two attacks against Jews in Zhitomir the previous month, Likhshtein was armed with mace. He sprayed his assailants and they fled.

Sept. 28, Sevastopol: The city’s chief rabbi, Benjamin Wolf, was beaten on his way home from synagogue on Friday night by youths shouting anti-Semitic slurs. The rabbi suffered a broken nose and a concussion, and was treated at a local hospital.

Sept. 29, Cherkassy: Religious Israelis in town to help lead Sukkot observances were attacked and beaten on their way to synagogue for services. Israeli yeshiva student Josef Rafaelov, 23, suffered head injuries and other wounds.

Oct. 5, Uzhgorod: While Rabbi Menachem Mendel Taikhman, chief rabbi of Uzhgorod and Transcarpatia, was celebrating Simchat Torah with his family in nearby Mukachevo, his home in Uzhgorod was set ablaze, damaged and robbed.

Oct. 14: Ukraine holds ceremonies around the country honoring a World War II-era general who fought alongside the Nazis with the Hero of Ukraine medal. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians turn out for the ceremonies, some of which contain anti-Semitic elements.

Zhitomir, in particular, has been the site of ongoing attacks on Jews.

July 9: Ukrainian youths attacked Rabbi Shlomo Wilgelm in the yard of his synagogue and tried to break into a Jewish school while shouting insults at the students. Wilgelm had been beaten and verbally assauled two years ago on one of the city’s main streets. August: Nohum Tamarin, executive director of the city’s branch of the Chabad-affiliated Federation of Jewish Communities, and his wife Broha were attacked and severely beaten near the synagogue by two neo-Nazis.

Aug. 16: A man broke into a synagogue during services, smashed a window and fled. No suspects have been identified.

“Jews in Zhitomir feel that they are in danger,” Rabbi Azriel Chaikin, one of Ukraine’s chief rabbis, wrote in an open letter to Ukraine’s president, prime minister, chief prosecutor and national security services. “We urge the national authorities in Ukraine to work with regional and local governments immediately to investigate these violent, anti-Semitic crimes, and to apprehended the perpetrators.

“Authorities must take additional steps to ensure the safety and security of its Jewish citizens in Zhitomir,” he added.

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