A rabbi was found badly beaten this morning in the western Ukrainian city of Zhitomir. With the onset of Shabbat there, Jewish community leaders are asking for prayers.

Rabbi Mendel Deitsch, a longtime Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in France and more recently in Israel, was brutally attacked at Zhitomir’s central train station early Friday morning, where he was discovered and transported to a local hospital. The Jewish Community of Zhitomir, headed by Chabad Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm, was alerted to the attack hours after Deitsch was admitted to the hospital.

Rabbi Mendel Deitsch
Rabbi Mendel Deitsch

Deitsch has been active in strengthening Jewish life in the former Soviet Union for many years, and is a central organizer of hospitality and programming at the burial site of Chabad’s founder—Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, in Haditch, Ukraine, where Deitsch is believed to have spent Rosh Hashanah.

The motive for the attack remains unknown. Violent anti-Semitic attacks in Ukraine are rare, and there is no indication at this time that it was anti-Semitic in nature.

As Shabbat approached in Ukraine, Deitsch was being operated on in Zhitomir. His situation is being described as extremely critical.

“The most important thing at this time,” stated Wilhelm, “is that people pray for the full recovery of Menachem Mendel Mordechai ben Miriam.”