Firebombs hurled at Hasidic luminary’s grave in Ukraine

Structure near the grave of Aryeh Leib Alter of Ger targeted; residents of Ternopil demand ‘Jewish star’ be removed from coat of arms

Illustrative photo of a Molotov cocktail (Flash90)
Illustrative photo of a Molotov cocktail (Flash90)

Unknown perpetrators hurled firebombs at the gravesite of a Hasidic luminary in central Ukraine.

The incident in Shpola, a city located 120 miles south of the capital, Kiev, occurred Sunday evening, according to Eduard Dolinsky, director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee.

On Monday, Dolinsky wrote on Facebook that the perpetrators tried to set on fire a structure built near the gravesite of Rabbi Aryeh Leib Alter, one of the earliest leaders of the Ger hasidic dynasty. He died in 1811 and was also known as the Sefat Emet after the book he wrote.

Alter was also an important disciple of Dov Ber of Mezeritch, an influential 18th-century Hasidic rabbi.

Separately, approximately 200 people in the west Ukrainian city of Ternopil presented local authorities with a petition to remove from the city’s coat of arms a star shape they said was a Jewish symbol, the Star of David.

The coat of arms of Ternopil features a fortress above the star shape that has six points and comprises 12 triangles – half of them khaki colored and the rest blank. Under the star is a horizontal crescent divided into a khaki half and a blank one. The shield bearing those symbols is crowned by the Ukrainian trident — the Sign of Princely State of Volodymyr the Great, which is the main national symbol and the country’s coat of arms.

The petitioners want the city to “replace the Jewish Star of David with the traditional Ukrainian octagon” and “complement the star and crescent with a Christian cross, which must go back to the top of the trident,” the news website Ukraina Moloda reported Friday.

They cited the writings of a Ukrainian fundamentalist Christian who said the Star of David is “associated with the symbol of the antichrist.”

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