When the media reported the assassination attempt on Kharkiv Mayor Gennady Kernes, they forgot to mention he is Jewish.
Kernes was shot in the back when he was going through his regular morning exercises. Kharkiv’s spokeswoman told reporters, “It was most likely carried out by someone hidden in the surrounding woods where he was exercising,” someone who was familiar with his “daily routine.”
He was rushed to a local hospital and underwent emergency surgery. The doctors determined Kernes needed more treatment, and he was flown to Israel to Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center.
The attacker has not been caught, and the motive is unclear. Ukrainian Jewish Committee head Eduard Dolinsky told The Jerusalem Post he does not believe Kernes was targeted because he is Jewish. But considering the vocal fears of prominent rabbis and recently distributed leaflets, it is odd that it was not initially reported that he is Jewish.
Ukrainian Jews have been warned to leave Ukraine since the Euromaidan protests started in November in Kiev’s Independence Square when now-ousted Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych chose a Russian bailout instead of a trade deal with the European Union. Pro-Westerners gathered in Kiev, but some of the main people within the opposition belonged to the Svoboda Party, which has a long history of anti-Semitism.
Concerns grew even more when masked men handed out a leaflet outside of a synagogue in Sloviansk. It told the Jews they must register and pay a $50 fee or they would lose their citizenship and belongings. Denis Pushilin, the self-proclaimed leader of the new Donetsk People’s Republic, appeared on the leaflet, but he said it was not his handwriting. It has not been confirmed who printed and distributed the leaflets, and no registration took place. There is no doubt, however, this has left a scar and brought back horrible memories of the Holocaust.
Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said the shooting might be “in retaliation for the detention of 13 pro-Russian separatists on Sunday – on charges of possession of petrol bombs, explosives and nails.” But considering the anti-Semitism in east Ukraine, Kerne’s Jewish heritage is very important to note.