NEW YORK/BRUSSELS – As the situation escalated in Ukraine, the World Jewish Congress (WJC) has urged authorities there to ensure the safety of Jewish communities. “Our concern is that anti-Semitic elements not exploit the unrest to commit acts of violence against individual Jews or Jewish institutions,” said WJC President Ronald S. Lauder. “The future of East Central Europe depends on the maintenance of comity among diverse communities. We cannot afford a return of the demons of the past.”
Lauder said that WJC personnel are in constant contact with Jewish religious and communal leaders in Russia and Ukraine, including in the Crimea.
Last Thursday night, a Reform synagogue was defaced in the Crimean city of Simferopol as Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces clashed in the city. The synagogue’s façade was sprayed with swastikas and the words “death to Jews,” according to news reports. There are about 15,000 Jews in Crimea.
“There should be no incidents of the kind that hit Simferopol,” Lauder said. “This ugly vandalism underscores the need for protection of Jews and other minorities and for heightened vigilance around their institutions in this unsettled period. I appeal to all sides in this conflict to be on the alert for any such extremist actions and to help prevent them.”
The WJC has two affiliates in Ukraine, the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine, and the Vaad, and has closely coordinated with both since the Euromaidan demonstrations began in November 2013.