Ukrainian rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm of Zhytomyr says that reports in the Israeli media claiming that Jews of his city ran away because of antisemitism are false.
"Hundreds of Jewish families in Ukraine were forced to flee their homes – not due to the Russian invasion, but because of Ukrainians looting their properties and physically attacking them," Hebrew-language news site 0404 reported Sunday - which was picked up by English speaking media outlets.
The NGO Lev Layeled (Heart for the Child) told 0404 that Jews in the town of Zhytomyr were threatened, harassed and physically beaten by locals looking to take advantage of the chaos caused by the war between Ukraine and Russia.
Wilhelm spoke to the Jerusalem Post on Wednesday and denied the report. "This is a complete, utter lie; there were no beatings and nothing of the sort. The only reason we left is this damn war: because of the sirens and missiles that fell nearby. There is no other reason for us to leave Ukraine."
The rabbi asked the following from the media: "Please publish this everywhere: The report is a complete lie that harms the Jewish community in Zhytomyr and Ukrainian Jews in general. The Jews of Ukraine are leaving solely because of the war. To say that there has been no antisemitism in recent years - this is a complete lie."
Wilhelm, who is now in Israel, asked to thank all Israelis and Jews around the world for helping them: "Thank you to all the people of Israel for all the reinforcements and prayers."
“On Thursday, the Ukrainians who worked at the orphanage began looting and beating the local Jews,” Lev Layeled said in a statement, according to the report. “The Ukrainian authorities called Chabad and told them they needed to [flee] urgently in order to save their lives.”