US/World News

Antisemitic attacks alarm Ukraine’s Jewish community

(JNS.org) Two violent antisemitic incidents that occurred in Kiev over the course of a week have alarmed the Ukrainian Jewish community. On Jan. 11, several men attacked Israeli teacher of Hebrew and Jewish tradition Hillel Wertheimer after he left a synagogue at the end of Shabbat. He did not suffer serious wounds. On Jan. 18, a yeshiva student from Russia, Dov-Ber Glickman, was also attacked after he left a synagogue.

Sam Kliger, the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) director of Russian Jewish community affairs, believes the incidents could be a “sinister sign indicating that some are trying to use antisemitism in political confrontation in Ukraine.”

When the Maidan protests began in November 2013 against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to freeze plans to join a free trade agreement with the European Union, there was little indication of antisemitism among protesters, despite the fact that ultra-nationalist Ukrainian political opposition party Svaboda was participating in the protests. Yet historically, “in this part of the world, a political confrontation sooner or later starts to exploit the ‘Jewish question’ and to play the Jewish card,” Kliger told JNS.org. “The question is: Who is using it? There are several versions. One of them suggests that some pro-governmental forces are behind the attacks in order to then blame the nationalists and ultra-nationalist groups associated with Maidan protesters to denounce their legitimacy. Yet another version suggests the opposite, namely that some radical groups like neo-Nazis and ultra-nationalists are behind the attack, which they then can blame on the government,” Kliger said.

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