The Kremlin is moving to “liquidate” the primary group fostering emigration from the Jewish diaspora to Israel as tens of thousands of Jews flee Russia because of the war in Ukraine. Up to 40,000 of the country’s estimated population of 165,000 to 200,000 Jews may have left for Israel since President Putin launched the invasion in February. The justice ministry wants to shut down the Jewish Agency’s branch in Russia for allegedly sending confidential data about Russian citizens abroad. On Friday a court in Moscow refused the agency’s request for a two-month mediation process, while approving a one-month postponement to the trial. Moscow’s exiled chief rabbi, Pinchas Goldschmidt, believes the real reasons for the attempted closure are twofold: criticism from Yair Lapid, the Israeli prime minister, about the war in Ukraine, and the “brain drain” associated with the exodus of Russian Jews to Israel.

Lapid infuriated Moscow by accusing it of war crimes in Ukraine when he was still foreign minister. He has also said there was “no justification” for Putin’s invasion. Goldschmidt, who is president of the Conference of European Rabbis, fled Russia and openly condemned the war. He now splits his time between Jerusalem and Europe. He said that in an atmosphere of intolerance towards foreign criticism in Moscow it was “expected that there would be repercussions” as a result of Lapid’s remarks. “Russia is concerned about brain drain but the Russian government did much more to hasten brain drain in the last 176 days than the Jewish Agency,” he said. The Jewish Agency works worldwide to facilitate emigration to Israel by helping with paperwork and finding people employment and a place to live. It estimates that 20,000 Jews have recently left Russia for Israel, a significant proportion of its Jewish population, as well as part of a wider departure of Russians opposed to the war.

Goldschmidt believed that the number was closer to 40,000 if Russians who were allowed into Israel because of Jewish ancestry and not just through acquiring citizenship were counted. The reason for leaving was anxiety about bouts of antisemitism in Russia he added. Goldschmidt pointed to a history of prejudice stretching back to Stalin’s purge of Jewish opponents such as Grigory Zinoviev and Leon Trotsky and an alleged conspiracy of mostly Jewish doctors to murder leading government officials. “Every Russian Jew knows about these and there have been red flags,” Goldschmidt said. “Sergey Lavrov’s, the Russian foreign minister’s, comment that Hitler was Jewish is one example.” He repeated a conspiracy theory when he said Hitler had Jewish blood, adding Jews themselves believed “some of the worst antisemites are Jews”. In another alarming incident, Alexei Venediktov, a prominent Jewish war critic, had a pig’s head left at his home with graffiti reading Jewish pig.

Source: Christian Post

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