Spreading Anti-Semitism

Prayers go on as usual. But a Moscow synagogue is still reeling from an attack that left eight people wounded.

Last Wednesday, twenty-year-old Alexander Koptsev stabbed synagogue workers and worshippers with a foot-long hunting knife.

As the security video shows, Koptsev was quickly overpowered - but he left several victims within an inch of their lives.

Victims like Michoel Mishulovin, a rabbi who works in Moscow but comes from Los Angeles. Koptsev's knife went completely through his left arm and into his side.

"He ran like a crazy, wild animal into the office," explained Mishulovin. "Somehow he stuck out of him and stabbed me in the arm."

He also added the attacker was full of hatred, and deadly intent. "Right after he stabbed me, he was screaming - my secretary heard it - he was screaming 'Heil Hitler. Heil Hitler, I came to kill."

Officials say this was an isolated incident by a lone extremist. But at the synagogue, they think there will be more attacks aimed at Jews, unless the Russian government takes stronger steps to fight anti-Semitism.

Russia's chief rabbi, Berl Lazar, says that Wednesday's attack was inspired by Russian nationalist groups which are spreading ethnic and religious intolerance.

"This is a growing attitude by the young people growing up today," Lazar explained. "If this is going to continue spreading the next few years, we're going to have a society which is not only going to be indifferent to other people, but actually antagonistic to anyone who is not clean and pure Russian."

Jews have not been the only victims. Last year, there were more than 100 hate attacks against foreigners and ethnic minorities in Russia...with more than 20 fatalities.

African and Latin American students studying in Russia have been particular targets, because their dark skin makes them stand out.

Foreign students have held numerous protests, including one in the city of Voronezh, asking the Russian government to guarantee their safety. They say officials have done far too little to limit extremist groups.

"They're killing us," says Tony Dulimo, an African student studying in St. Petersburg. "Nobody knows who'll be the next victim... maybe me."

Jewish leaders are also asking for new statutes against inciting ethnic hatred, and for better enforcement of existing laws. They want the government to take real action against extremists now, before there's more bloodshed.
By Beth Knobel

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