Ukraine Reform shul defaced by anti-Semitic graffiti

An unidentified armed man patrols a square in front of the airport in Simferopol, Ukraine, on Friday, Feb. 28, 2014 (photo credit: AP/Ivan Sekretarev)

The Reform synagogue in Simferopol, the capital of Ukraine’s Crimean republic, was vandalized Thursday night as the city saw clashes between thousands of armed pro-Russian protesters and Ukrainian nationalists.

Simferopol’s 150-member Reform congregation, Ner Tamid, is housed in the city’s historic Old Synagogue building, which was returned to the Jewish community after the fall of the Former Soviet Union through Holocaust restitution efforts.

Vandals spray painted anti-Semitic messages on the outside walls of the historic building, Ukraine’s Chief Reform Rabbi Alexander Dukhovny told The Times of Israel on Friday.

Early Friday, Ukraine accused Russia of a “military invasion,” saying that Russian troops had taken up strategic positions in the Crimean peninsula. Later in the day, the chief of Ukraine’s security council seemed to back away from those claims, saying that gunmen had attempted to seize airports in Simferopol and Sevastopol.

Amid all of the recent chaos, Dukhovny, born and raised by Jewish parents in Kiev, maintained that anti-Semitism is currently marginal in his country.

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