The mayor of Ukraine’s second-largest city was shot in the back while out jogging Monday morning and was reported to be in critical condition following emergency surgery.

Gennady Kernes is among the leading Jewish officials in Ukraine.

“All we can do right now is pray,” said Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz, chief rabbi and Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Kharkov, noting Kernes’ Hebrew name, Moshe ben Chana. “He’s a good friend of the Jewish community and has helped us in many ways,” Moscovitz continued.

“He’s very proud of his Jewish heritage: He received a Jewish name six years ago when he had a bris [circumcision] through us. He puts on tefillin regularly, shakes the lulav and etrog. We are all davening [praying] for him.”

There have been no official statements about the circumstances of the shooting of Kernes, and it was not clear who was behind it. Kernes was initially an outspoken opponent of the pro-West Maidan movement that toppled President Viktor Yanukovych in February.

But he has since softened his stance toward the new Kiev government and recently insisted in public that he does not support the armed pro-Russia insurgents or any annexation of Ukrainian territory.

Kharkov is in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian gunmen have seized government buildings, set up roadblocks and staged protests to demand autonomy or elections that would lead to outright annexation by Russia.

Gennady Kernes with Rabbi Moshe Moskowitz
Gennady Kernes with Rabbi Moshe Moskowitz