NEW YORK – The World Jewish Congress vehemently condemns the overnight arson attack unleashed against a Jewish cultural center and a synagogue built with the support of our affiliate, the Russian Jewish Congress, in the northern Russian province city of Arkhangelsk.
“It is beyond saddening that as billions of people across the world find common ground in contending with the shared fears, uncertainties, and concerns that accompany the COVID-19 crisis, antisemitic hoodlums are still wasting their energy on spewing hatred and assaulting Jewish centers and houses of worships in the name of pure divisiveness,” said WJC President Ronald S. Lauder. “Thankfully, nobody was hurt, but sadly, this is only further proof that the challenges facing the Jewish people have not stopped despite the global pandemic of coronavirus, and moreover, it underscores the fact that we must continue to unite and demonstrate as much vigilance as ever before in ensuring that Jewish communities are safe and secure.”
“We stand with the Russian Jewish Congress in decrying this attack and urge local authorities to do track down the perpetrator and do everything in their power to ensure that Jewish institutions receive proper protection and surveillance to prevent such incidents from happening again,” Lauder said.
Russian Jewish Congress carefully monitoring investigation
The Russian Jewish Congress expressed its outrage over this barbaric and clearly antisemitic attack and urged law enforcement authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the crime. The RJC is closely monitoring the progress of the investigation. This was the third attack on the Star of the North Synagogue since 2015; no perpetrators have been charged in the previous two attacks, which took place during construction prior to its opening in 2018, and included an air-gun and graffiti desecration in 2015 and a Molotov cocktail thrown at both the synagogue and the cultural center in 2016.
Yury Kanner, President of the Russian Jewish Congress, emphasized that the fact that this very same institution had been attacked before, “speaks of the perseverance and determination of these yet-to-be known attackers. From my experience, it’s clear that there is still more to be explored in this case. We will not let these culprits go unpunished again, just to be free to launch another attack on their favored target.”
The chairman of the Jewish community of Arkhangelsk, Anatoly Obermeister, said that coupled with the previous damages, repairs could cost millions of rubles.
Closed circuit TV clips captured by police indicate that the attack over the weekend was indeed planned in advance, Obermeister said. At about 3:40 AM, the assailant climbed over a fence using tires, which he then brought close to the synagogue and lit aflame. Firefighters arrived 15 minutes later, when the facade was already blazing.
The Star of the North Synagogue is the northernmost in Russia, opened in 2018. It comprises three stories with a concert hall that can seat more than 500. The construction was carried out exclusively from donations, at approximately 180 million rubles, including with the support of the RJC.