Beyond the Cusp

April 29, 2014

Anti-Semitism Explodes in the Ukraine

Serial news stories have dribbled in from the Ukraine reporting incident after incident of attacks on Jews and Jewish buildings and institutions since the beginning of the Russian offensive to instigate unrest presumably to facilitate their reacquisition of Ukrainian territory back under Russian control starting with the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. There was the mugging of a Jewish man who was barely able to make it to the neighborhood Synagogue which may have saved his life. Soon thereafter a Synagogue in a neighboring town was firebombed. A second Synagogue was firebombed a few weeks later and there have been numerous reports of verbal abuse and Jews being accosted though not seriously injured in the confrontations. This past weekend brought an end to such benign attacks as events have become far more serious and life-threatening.


Yesterday some three-hundred pro-Russian militants armed with baseball bats assaulted a branch of the bank owned by a well-known Jewish oligarch regional governor who has voiced criticism of Moscow. The attack was on the Donetsk office of the private banking and metal industry holding belonging to Igor Kolomoisky. Mr. Kolomoisky is also governor of the nearby region of Dnipropetrovsk. The rioters screamed charges of “fascist” and “enemy of the people” during the assault among other abuses. Kolomoisky has been particularly vocal in his opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin claiming, “He has gone mad with his mission to re-establish the Russian empire.” He has said that Putin was, vowing that “separatism will not pass in Dnipropetrovsk.” Apparently that is sufficient to have your business assaulted and the offices overturned and employees threatened by imminent threats of violence.


Over the weekend the Mayor of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkov, Gennady Kernes, has been shot in the back by unidentified gunmen. Reported in the City Hall’s website a report on the incident says that doctors are fighting to save his life. Mr. Kernes is known to be Jewish and this has been suspected as a contributing motivation behind the shooting. The rabbi of Kharkov, Rabbi Moshe Moskowitz, told Arutz Sheva that the mayor is being operated on and that security forces are attempting to catch the shooters. As mayor of Kharkov since March 2010, Kernes had been a strong supporter of President Viktor Yanukovich right till his ouster in February. This removes anti-Russian motives as the motivation in his attempted assassination making anti-Semitism an even likelier motivation, especially with the recent boiling over of such emotions which have resulted in a general state of fear in the Jewish community in the Ukraine.


The rabbi said the mayor had been jogging and was apparently shot in the back many times. The Rabbi was quoted stating, “This is a very dear Jew, with a warm and loving connection to the community, and we are shocked by the assassination. We are praying for his health – Moshe son of Hana.” Our prayers also go out for Mayor Kernes. Another report that included more information on the severity of the wounds was given by Kernes’s friend Yury Sapronov who told Vesti Ukrainy, a news outlet, “They shot him in the back from the forest. The injury is serious. His lung is pierced and his liver pierced all the way through.”


Abraham Duvdevani, head of the WZO, stated, “We strongly condemn this despicable act, and wish a speedy recovery to the mayor.” Anti-Semitism during the early months of 2014 is at a height not seen for decades and anti-Semitic groups operate with no restraint in many places around the world according to Abraham Duvdevani. Jews around the world, especially in Ukraine, feel the need to defend themselves against the spreading hatreds. Abraham Duvdevani further stated, “We must fight this until it is removed from the world.” May we suggest to Mr. Duvdevani and the World Zionist Organization that perhaps in addition to calling attention to these difficult times and the imminent threat to Jewish life in the Ukraine that they coordinate with Israel and arrange for an escape route for those Jews who wish to leave the Ukraine and return to Israel. There have been reports of a sizeable segment of the Ukrainian Jewish community who have expressed the desire to make Aliyah and return home and many do not have sufficient means to make this happen without some assistance. We hope that there will be assistance for those Jews anywhere who desire to return to Israel even if the main reason is due to the increased anti-Semitism which is rearing its head across wide swaths of the globe.


This is even more important and deserves additional emphasis in Israel where the commemoration of the Shoah was just observed and a nation stood for two minutes of silent remembrance while the wail of the siren exclaimed the moment. Echoing our sentiments was Yaakov Haguel, the WZO’s Israel activity head for the fight against anti-Semitism, who called on the Ukrainian government to find Kernes’ shooters and put them on trial. “Today, on Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Memorial Day, as anti-Semitism continues to rage, I call on the leaders of the world to use a strong hand against anti-Semitic incidents, whether large or small.” How many more Jews will have to pay before the world takes a stand this time, how many?


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