Moscow’s exiled chief rabbi says Jews should leave Russia while they still can, before they are made scapegoats for the hardship caused by the war in Ukraine.
“When we look back over Russian history, whenever the political system was in danger you saw the government trying to redirect the anger and discontent of the masses towards the Jewish community,” Pinchas Goldschmidt told the Guardian. “We saw this in tsarist times and at the end of the Stalinist regime.”
“We’re seeing rising antisemitism while Russia is going back to a new kind of Soviet Union, and step by step the iron curtain is coming down again. This is why I believe the best option for Russian Jews is to leave,” he added.
Goldschmidt resigned from his post and left Russia in July after refusing to back the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“Pressure was put on community leaders to support the war and I refused to do so. I resigned because to continue as chief rabbi of Moscow would be a problem for the community because of the repressive measures taken against dissidents,” he said.
Russia’s Jews have been emigrating in their tens of thousands during the past 100 years, first to Europe and the Americas and more recently to Israel. According to the 1926 census there were 2,672,000 Jews in the then Soviet Union, 59% of them in Ukraine. Today only about 165,000 Jews remain in the Russian Federation out of a total population of 145 million.
Goldschmidt said he believed that since the war began, 25% to 30% of those who remained had left or were planning to do so, although there were now few flights out of Moscow and the price of a flight to Tel Aviv had quadrupled to about $2,000 (£1,625).
In July, the Russia’s government shut down the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency, a non-profit organisation that promotes immigration to Israel.
Overall, it is thought that about 200,000 Russians have fled Russia, an exodus that accelerated when conscription was introduced in September. [Continue reading…]