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Kiev rabbi assaulted in suspected anti-Semitic attack

by JTA

March 14, 2014 | 11:18 am

Protests in Kiev on February 22. Photo credit: De Visu/Shutterstock.com

Protests in Kiev on February 22. Photo credit: De Visu/Shutterstock.com

Two unidentified men assaulted a rabbi in Kiev in a suspected anti-Semitic attack.

The men assaulted Rabbi Hillel Cohen, who runs the Ukrainian branch of the Hatzalah emergency services organization, on Thursday on the street, his wife, Racheli Cohen, told JTA.

“They struck him in the leg, shouting anti-Semitic slurs, calling him a ‘zhyd,’ she said, using the Ukrainian word for “kike.” “This was clearly an anti-Semitic attack.”

Cohen was treated for minor injuries in a hospital and is recovering at his home in Kiev.

Cohen in an interview last month with JTA said that the Ukrainian revolution increased the risk of anti-Semitic attacks because of the general breakdown of public order.

“Things began getting really uncomfortable when the rioters started setting up spontaneous roadblocks to keep police and army troops from reaching the action zone,” he said. “It was very uneasy, being pulled over in a car full of Orthodox Jews by club-wielding Cossacks.”

In January, a Hebrew teacher was assaulted outside his Kiev home by four men, but escaped without serious injury. Later that month a rabbinical student was stabbed by three men while returning from synagogue, sustaining moderate to serious injuries.

Earlier this week, vandals removed part of the fence around the Jewish cemetery of Kolomyia in western Ukraine, according to a report by the HTK television channel.

In February, a synagogue in Zaporizhia in eastern Ukraine was hit with firebombs that caused superficial damage to its façade. Another synagogue in the Crimean Peninsula was daubed with graffiti reading: “Death to the Jews” several days later.

Viktor Yanukovych, the former Russian-backed Ukrainian president, fled last month to Russia. The Kremlin has blamed the revolution on “anti-Semites” and “neo-Nazis” and on Thursday accused the West of condoning for political reasons the xenophobia of the ultra-nationalist and anti-Russian Svoboda party, which had a prominent role in the revolution.

Ira Forman, the Obama administration’s special envoy for combating anti-Semitism, said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statements on anti-Semitism in Ukraine were not credible. Ukrainian Jewish leaders also disputed Putin’s allegations.

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