Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar has refused to accept a medal presented to him as an honorary guest by the authorities of the western Ukrainian city of Uzhgorod.
Rabbi Lazar visited Uzhgorod on Monday to demonstrate his solidarity with the local Jewish community following anti-Semitic remarks made by the city’s Mayor Sergey Ratushnyak.
“It is impossible to accept an award from a person who has affronted not only me, but also Jews around the world. It is impossible to receive an award from the hands of a person who does not respect us. I will not be able to accept it until I see the Uzhgorod mayor’s real repentance and agreement to change his position,” Lazar told a representative of Uzhgorod’s City Hall.
“I understand that the city’s Jewish community is having a difficult time at present. You have been shocked by what happened. But the Jewish people all over the world support you today,” the Russian rabbi said.
According to earlier reports, Uzhgorod Mayor Ratushnyak, who also heads the Transcarpathia branch of the Ukrainian People’s Party, attacked a female volunteer from the Front of Changes public organization on August 6. Front of Changes representatives said later that the Uzhgorod mayor “explained his action by racist motives” in the media.
The public organization also said that “the racist nature of Ratushnyak’s conduct is obvious to everyone who has read or watched his interview.”