Action by Russia’s Justice Ministry is a new blow for Russia’s Jewish community after its chief rabbi was forced to flee for not supporting the invasion of Ukraine. Reopened in the 1990s, the agency helped Jews emigrate to Israel. Since February, 10,000 have left the country. In Israel the Lapid government is sending a delegation warning that “Russian Jews will not be held hostage”.
Moscow (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Russia’s Justice Ministry has filed an application with the Moscow District Court asking for the "dissolution" of the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency (JA) for unspecified "violations” of the law, Russian agency Ria Novosti reported.
While the JA filed an appeal and a preliminary hearing was scheduled for 28 July, the case signals escalating tensions between the Russian government and the local Jewish community, especially since Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt was forced to leave the country three months ago for refusing to support Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
Founded in 1929 as the operative branch of the World Zionist Organisation (WZO), the Jewish Agency is the largest global Jewish organisation. By statute its task is “ensure that every Jewish person feels an unbreakable bond to one another and to Israel no matter where they live in the world”.
The JA is best known as the main body promoting Aliyah, i.e. Jewish immigration to Israel. For this reason, the affair indirectly involves the Israeli government.
In light of the situation, the Prime Minister’s Office in Israel announced that an Israeli delegation would travel to Moscow next week to “ensure the continued operations of the Jewish Agency in Russia”.
Some Israeli ministers have gone even further by expressly speaking of Russia's intimidation of Israel over its position on the war in Ukraine, which has shifted more and more towards Ukraine after an initial attempt at keeping a neutral line.
To make matters even more delicate is the fact that Russia controls Syrian airspace, which Israeli planes regularly violate in order to strike at targets held by pro-Iranian groups.
“Russian Jews will not be held hostage by the war in Ukraine. The attempt to punish the Jewish Agency for Israel’s stance on the war is deplorable and offensive,” said Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai in a statement.
The Jewish Agency reopened its Moscow office 30 years ago and was instrumental in the immigration to Israel of more than a million Jews from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s.
Since then, the flow of migrants out of Russia has declined but not stopped; in fact, it has picked up in recent months, fed by fears among Russia’s remaining Jews of anti-Semitism linked to the war in Ukraine.
Since February more than 10,000 Russian Jews have left for Israel. Now the fear is that the attack against the Jewish Agency will make it harder to leave Russia.