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9 Feb, 2024 13:58

Being Jewish ‘is fashionable’ in Russia – community leader

The country is one of the safest places for Jews in the entire world, German Zakharyaev has said
Being Jewish ‘is fashionable’ in Russia – community leader

Jews in Russia enjoy a high level of security and are guaranteed all the rights and freedoms they could possibly ask for, the vice president of the country’s Jewish Congress has said.

In an interview with RIA Novosti released on Friday, German Zakharyaev, who is also the president of the International Foundation of Caucasus Jews, described the situation with anti-Semitism in Russia as relatively stable. “I can say with certainty that Russia is one of the safest places for Jews to be in the entire world,” he said.

He pointed out that Jews are free to follow their traditions, wear religious clothing, eat kosher food, and celebrate their holidays. He praised the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin for their efforts in making this possible.

He also hailed continuous campaigns to combat anti-Semitism and forge cross-national ties. “The level of anti-Semitism has decreased significantly, although it has not disappeared completely… On the contrary, it has even become fashionable among young people to be Jewish.”

He also addressed violent anti-Jewish riots in Russia’s Muslim-majority southern regions in October. The string of anti-Semitic incidents – which Moscow insists were orchestrated by Ukrainian-linked groups and Western intelligence services – followed the outbreak of war between the Palestinian armed movement Hamas and Israel. The protests themselves were fueled by rumors that “Jewish refugees” were fleeing the Middle East for Russia.

While Zakharyaev called the riots “despicable,” he noted that the southern Russian regions were a special case, saying that the unrest had been inspired by foreign forces. He also noted that very few people supported the protesters, and that there have been no similar incidents in recent months.

According to the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), the largest Jewish non-profit in the world, there were 150,000 Jews living in Russia in 2021. At the time, the country ranked seventh in the world in terms of the size of its Jewish community.

On Thursday, Berel Lazar, the chairman of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, noted that Putin had begun efforts to improve the lives of Jews in the country as early as the late 1990s, emphasizing the country’s “zero-tolerance” policy towards anti-Semitism.