Ukraine - Customs Destroys Jewish Prayer Books, Bibles Sent from Russia

Published on: September 1st, 2008 at 09:49 PM
By: Haaretz

Ukraine - The Jewish community is in an uproar on the country's customs service for destroying 173 Jewish prayer books and bibles that had been sent from Russia for the use of the Jewish community in Sumy.

A Russian courier had brought the religious books to the Ukrainian border, but discovered that he lacked enough money to pay customs. The books were therefore left at the Sumy customs office until the duty was paid.

Later, however, the courier informed the office that he was abandoning the books. The customs service tried to sell them, but managed to sell only one. At that point, the service's executive committee decided to give the books to the Ukrainian Jewish community.

However, for reasons that remain unclear, someone in the Sumy customs office decided instead to destroy them.

Rabbi Yechiel Levitansky, the rabbi of the Sumy Jewish community, denounced the decision, saying his congregation needed the shipment badly, because it currently did not have enough prayer books to go around.

"On Shabbat, around 40 people come to the synagogue to pray," he said. "And because there are not enough prayer books, the worshipers must share. We waited a long time to receive the books - prayer books are generally printed in Moscow - and now we'll have to wait again until we get new books."

Ukrainian prosecutors who began investigating the matter, confirmed that the books were indeed destroyed by the Sumy customs office.

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