The CEO of the World Jewish Congress said on Wednesday that the beating of a Jewish man in Kiev, Ukraine, which local leaders believe was sparked by anti-Semitism, was a “vicious act that must not go unpunished.”
The statement from Robert Singer came shortly before prominent Ukrainian Jewish lawmaker Oleksandr Feldman called for a security increase in Jewish communities, which have watched warily as an allegedly neo-Nazi political party gained a foothold in protests in the Eastern European nation.
“MP Feldman is highly concerned [and has] demanded from law enforcement agencies [a] thorough investigation and [that they] bring those responsible to justice,” said Eduard Dolinsky, the director of the Ukranian Jewish Committee, in an email on Wednesday. Feldman is the president of the committee.
The attack happened on Saturday night, according to the WJC, when four suspects ambushed Hillel Wertheimer, a Hebrew teacher who was born in Israel and lives in Kiev.
The WJC said the men followed Wertheimer home from synagogue, and three of the men punched and kicked him.
Wertheimer has since recovered from the attack.
“Nowadays, the beating of a defenseless Jewish school teacher is a culmination of anti-Semitism. The Ukrainian government must take tough measures to prevent such incidents in future,” said Boris Fuchsmann, president of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian embassy in Tel Aviv did not have additional information about the police investigation, but said the Ukrainian government “consistently implements coherent actions to fight anti-Semitism and xenophobia in society and takes tough measures to prevent anti-Semitic crimes.”
“The Embassy of Ukraine condemns any acts of violence, anti-Semitism and extremism of any kind,” the embassy added in its statement.
The WJC said the attack was part of wider “anti-Semitic incitement and extremist activities” in the country, specifically perpetrated by the Svoboda political party, which it said is anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi.
Also on Wednesday, Dov Bleich, chief rabbi of Ukraine and Kiev, met with the US ambassador to Ukraine to discuss the situation facing Jews in the country. The American Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt confirmed in an email that the two discussed “recent political developments.”