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April 28, 2014 10:38 am

Kharkiv Chief Rabbi on Shooting of Jewish Mayor Kernes: ‘The Jewish Factor Never Helps Anybody Here’ (INTERVIEW)

avatar by Joshua Levitt

Kharkiv's Choral Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Ukraine. Photo: WikiCommons.

Kharkiv's Choral Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Ukraine. Photo: WikiCommons.

Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz, chief rabbi of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, said Hennady Kernes, the city’s mayor who was shot in the back on Monday, could have been targeted for assassination because of his Jewish faith, as well as his political stance.

Kernes opposed the pro-West Maidan movement that toppled President Viktor Yanukovych in February and, according to Times of Israel, was widely viewed as the organizer of activists sent to Kiev from eastern Ukraine to harass those demonstrators. More recently, Kernes is believed to have softened his stance toward the new Kiev government, and has insisted that he does not support the pro-Russia insurgents or any annexation of Ukrainian territory.

When asked to speculate on what motivated the shooting, Rabbi Moskovitz, who heads the Kharkiv Choral Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Ukraine, told The Algemeiner, “I am sure the Jewish factor never helps anybody here.”

“But it could have very well had to do with politics,” he said. “The situation in Ukraine is very hard.”

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Kharkiv is in eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian gunmen are instigating for what many fear could be a pretext for a Russian invasion.

The rabbi said the attack on the mayor “hurts the community and it hurts the city.”

Moskovitz said “he is like a hero here in Kharkiv, he turned the city around and he build the city, even his opponents will admit that.”

Moskovitz described Kernes as a “very proud Jew” and a “great friend of the Jewish community.”

He is “a member of the community and a member of the shul (synagogue), and he is one of the sponsors of the shul, he comes to my house on Pesach; on his Jewish birthday I visit him to don tefillin (phylacteries),” the rabbi said.

The rabbi said the mayor “is a big source of pride for the Jewish community because he is an open Jew, there is no person in Kharkiv that doesn’t know he is Jewish.”

Moskovitz said local media have reported that “it was a sniper which shot him from the back” from a distance, while he was jogging, probably with bodyguards.

The mayor “had an operation and we are praying things should go good,” he said.

The rabbi asked for others to pray for Kernes as well. The Mayor’s Hebrew name is Moshe ben Hana.

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