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Crimea votes to join Russia days after attack on Kiev rabbi

(JNS.org) Results of the Crimea referendum held Sunday show that 95.7 percent of the voters in the Ukrainian peninsula support annexation of the area by Russia. The vote comes in the wake of an ongoing campaign by Russia to brand the new government of Ukraine as fascist, ultra-nationalist, and anti-Semitic.

Last week, a Kiev rabbi who runs the Ukrainian branch of the Jewish relief organization Hatzalah was attacked in a possible anti-Semitic incident. Rabbi Hillel Cohen was stabbed by two men who also shouted anti-Semitic slurs before leaving in a vehicle, Ukrainian police said.

Josef Zisels, chairman of VAAD Ukraine (a Jewish community umbrella organization) and a vice president of the World Jewish Congress, told the Jerusalem Post he believes the latest attack was a provocation intended as a “justification for the continuation of Russian aggression” in Crimea and to “discredit the new government of Ukraine.” Zisels was the lead signatory on a recent letter accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of exaggerating the level of anti-Semitism and general ultra-nationalism in Ukraine.

Crimea itself is home to an estimated 17,000 Jews, concentrated in the cities of Simferopol, Sevastopol, Feodosia, and Yalta, according to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). Despite the vote, JDC’s operations in Crimea are continuing to run, including the delivery of Mishloach Manot last week for Purim.

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