As the world follows events in the Crimean peninsula, the local Jewish community has its own reason to worry -- on Friday, vandals sprayed swastikas and graffiti reading "Death to the Jews" on a synagogue in Simferopol.
"There is no doubt that it was important to anti-Semites to commit this crime," said Anatoly Gendin, head of the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Crimea. "Since the crisis started, prices have risen by 30 percent and people aren't receiving their pensions. As always, the Jews are being blamed, and I'm scared to think where it could progress," Gendin said.
According to the Jewish community leader, to get to the building the vandals had to climb the 2-meter wall that surrounds the synagogue compound. Rabbi Misha Kapustin, a leader in the Crimean Jewish community, told Israel Hayom that he had asked worshippers to stay away from the site.
"This was the first time in my life that a synagogue was closed," he said. "I realized that the situation wouldn't get better. We don't need to wait for them to riot against us."
Kapustin intends to write a letter to a number of heads of state, appealing to them to do "whatever is in their power to prevent a Russian invasion. To [ask them to] not abandon Ukrainian Jews."
But other voices are also making themselves heard in Crimea. A representative of the pro-Russian party that controls the Sevastopol city council said that "there are no soldiers or armed people in the streets. There aren't a lot of Jews here, but those who are left can relax."
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said that it had not received special instructions about Jews or Israelis in Ukraine, other than the Feb. 19 travel advisory issued for the area.