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One Jew Killed, Another Beaten in Russia, but Anti-semitism Unlikely

October 17, 2003
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

There are new calls for increased security at Jewish institutions in Russia after two Jews were beaten to death, one fatally, in recent weeks.

“This would have never happened if we had security guards here,” said Mikhail Korytniy, chief administrator at the Ohalei Ya’akov yeshiva in downtown Moscow. Robert Aminashvili, 25, died Tuesday of a severe beating on a Moscow street after he left the yeshiva after the conclusion of Yom Kippur.

Aminashvili’s body was to be flown to Israel on Thursday for burial.

Korytniy said that weeks before Aminashvili was beaten to death, two school officials canceled a contract with private security guards in order to save money.

Leading Russian Jewish officials have not spoken publicly about the incident, which went unreported in the Russian media.

In a similar attack last week, a U.S.-born Israeli yeshiva student suffered head injuries in a nighttime beating on a Russian street.

Those familiar with the attack on Aminashvili said he was drunk when he and a friend left to go to a nearby store to get alcohol in the early hours of Oct. 7.

“It all remains unclear, but we understand that the guys were drunk, they met some other guys and they got into a fight,” Korytniy said.

He said yeshiva officials do not believe anti-Semitism motivated the attack because Aminashvili did not have a beard and was not wearing a yarmulke or other garb that would have identified him as Jewish.

The yeshiva’s rabbinic authorities and other Jewish officials refused to talk to the media about the tragedy.

The friend who was with Aminashvili, yeshiva student Rahamim Peisakhov, left for Israel after Aminashvili died. Peisakhov reportedly was not injured.

A native of the former Soviet republic of Georgia and a religious Jew, Aminashvili had immigrated to Israel but recently had been spending most of his time in Moscow.

His wife and a young child remained in Israel. Efforts to reach them were unsuccessful.

Aminashvili’s mother, Lali, worked as a cook at Ohalei Ya’akov, where Aminashvili used to pray. He became friends with some of the yeshiva students and even did some volunteer work for the school.

“He was such a caring person,” Korytniy said. “He would come here frequently to pray. And this past summer he volunteered as a driver for our summer camp. He traveled to the airport several times” and often brought the yeshiva food and supplies, he said.

Korytniy said he was impressed because Aminashvili refused payment for his efforts.

On Tuesday, students and teachers at the small yeshiva, which has only six students and four rabbinic staff members, held a private ceremony at the Moscow hospital where Aminashvili died after a week in a coma.

A spokesman for the Moscow police unit investigating the case told JTA that investigators had no reason to suspect the attack on Aminashvili was motivated by bias.

A police captain said the case had little chance of being resolved as long as the main witness, Peisakhov, remains abroad.

In the other incident, Mordechai Zvi Solomon, 21, was attacked Oct. 7 when he left the synagogue in the city of Perm, where he had come to serve as a cantor for the High Holidays. He was flown from a Perm hospital to Moscow this week for treatment.

Solomon remained in stable condition Wednesday after suffering head bruises and a concussion.

Although an Orthodox Jew, Solomon was not wearing any clothes that would identify him as Jewish, Efim Burshtein, chairman of the Perm Jewish religious congregation, said in a phone interview this week.

Burshtein blamed the incident on increased crime in the city of 1 million, located in the Ural Mountains.

“There is no reason we can say the attack was anti-Semitic,” he said. “The assailants did not shout anti-Semitic slogans; they wouldn’t even know he was Jewish. But they could clearly see he isn’t a local.”

The attackers took Solomon’s wallet, which held a small amount of cash, and his U.S. passport, which was recovered by police.

Burshtein said police are investigating the incident fully but is skeptical they will find the assailant. He said more security is needed at his synagogue as well.

“If we had any, they would have talked the guy out of taking a walk in the middle of the night in a strange city,” he said.

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