(JTA) — Russian authorities identified a suspect in the scrawling of anti-Semitic graffiti on the wall of a Jewish center in the Russian village of Lyubavichi, the cradle of the Chabad Hasidic movement.
The suspect was a man from Murmansk, a city located hundreds of miles north of Lyubavichi, according to Yuri Ivashkin, the mayor of the village in western Russia.
“We knew immediately this was not the work of a local,” Ivashkin told JTA. “Police are still working on identifying an accomplice.”
The inscriptions, reading “Jews out of Russia, our land” and featuring the Baltic variant of the swastika, were spray-painted on the wall of the Hatzer Raboteinu Nesieinu Belubavitch earlier this month.
Ivashkin’s statement followed a ceremony in which several of Russia’s senior-most rabbis attended the dedication of a perimeter fence around one of the Jewish cemeteries in and around Lyubavichi.
The rabbis, including Yitzhak Kogan of the Moscow synagogue Bolshaya Bronnaya, and Jehoshua Raskin, traveled Sunday from Moscow to the village of 200 people to celebrate the completion there of a preservation project headed by the European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative, or ESJF, a nonprofit organization that has completed similar projects in 102 cemeteries across Eastern Europe with funding from the German government.
“Initiatives like these are vital because of neglect, economic and agricultural development, and vandalism,” said Rabbi Isaac Schapira, the founder and chairman of the ESJF board. The project in Lyubavichi was his organization’s first in Russia since its founding in 2015.
Joseph Popack, a Jewish-American donor, funded the new fencing at a cost of $100,000.
Located near Smolensk and the border with Belarus, Lyubavichi became a major Jewish hub following the settling there in 1813 of Rabbi Dovber Schneuri, a leader of the Chabad movement of Hasidic Orthodox Jews. Chabad is the acronym of the Hebrew-language words for wisdom, intelligence and knowledge.
The movement, perhaps best known for its outreach to non-Hasidic Jews, also refers to itself as Chabad-Lubavitch in reference to how the town’s name is pronounced in Yiddish.
Chabad established in Lyubavichi an information center and museum, which Ivashkin says attracts 500 visitors monthly to the impoverished village, which is comprised of many dilapidated houses.
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