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September 23, 2013 8:25 pm

Russian Orthodox Church Still Thinks There is a ‘Jewish Question’

avatar by Josephine Bacon

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Israel President Peres in Russia. Photo: GPO.

Every year, a three-day discussion forum is held in Russia at the Valdai Club, an organization so-called because it is located in Valdai in the Novgorod Oblast. It is attended by Russia’s “great and good,” including many members of the political opposition, as well as President Putin’s party. Journalists are strictly prohibited from reporting in detail on its deliberations, probably for this reason.

This year, on its second day, the forum relocated to the local Iversky Monastery, which its organizers apparently considered a suitable setting for a discussion on religious tolerance.

Russian society has always been hostile to religious minorities – not only with respect to Jews, but also with respect to others, including the substantial number of Muslims within its territory. And this hostility never seems to disappear.

Even during Perestroika, anti-Semitism was still rife. My daughter studied in Moscow in the 1980s in the days of Gorbachev (and Chernobyl), and she was openly insulted several times in public by ordinary people who assumed she was Jewish. That is how bad it was and still is.

The speakers at the Valdai session on religion were made up exclusively of representatives of the Russian Orthodox and Muslim religions. Orthodoxy was represented by Metropolitan (archbishop) Hilarion, who claimed that Russian Orthodoxy was never imposed on minorities in pre-Soviet times “as long as the local elites showed loyalty to the Tsar.” He also noted that “the Polish and Jewish questions [whatever that means] were not resolved;” he did not explain what the Polish and Jewish questions were. “Polish” is a euphemism for Roman Catholic, but also refers to the traditional Russian dislike of the Poles, as manifested in the Katyn Massacre and many, many other atrocities.

The Muslim speaker, the Mufti Damir-Hazrat Mukhetdinov, deplored the alleged increase of Islamophobia in Russia – no surprise there. He did not refer to other religious minorities or the need to tolerate all different beliefs.

The idea that anyone actually representing Roman Catholicism or Judaism might be allowed to address this august gathering apparently never occurred to the organizers. The audience almost certainly included Jews, though probably not professing or practicing Jews due to Russia’s tradition of persecution and intolerance. A tradition continued by this “discussion” forum.

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  • Andrew

    Some authors on this column seem to mistakenly associate people with Jewish ancestry as practicing Jews. Hopefully this lazy debating practice can be remedied.

  • Dear Lisa, you clearly blame Jews for all the world’s ills, just like the Nazis. One of their slogans, just like yours was “The Jews are our misfortune”. To my knowledge, Lenin wasn’t a Jew, nor was Stalin, in fact he trained for the Christian priesthood! And he particularly targeted Jews to murder.

    Many people consider U.S. capitalism to be at least as evil as Communism, ask black people in the Deep South.

  • Lisa

    Why don’t you ask all of those who died in the gulags under the soviets, why they were there in the first place? Where the majority jewish? NO, they were Christians. Come on people the jews were not the victims in Soviet times, look at all the Churches and Christians that were destroyed.

  • I have to slightly disagree with Otto Waldmann, there is ingrained antisemitism in Russian society that has not been eradicated by the post-World War II guilt felt in many western countries, especially Germany. Naturally, the church fosters it and Putin has revived the Orthdox church’s power.

    • Otto Waldmann in Sydney

      I have to slightly disagree with you, Josephine. Actually, you fully agree with me, but this time I’ll let you off the hook……………….

      I have visited Russia in 1984 on a mission to help the then Jewish refusenicks and then again some six times since 1992 and let ME tell you a thing or two about antisemitism over there !

  • Vasily

    Lies, lies, lies! Author provocateur! In Russia the Jews occupy key positions in the leadership. TV and mass media belong to the Jews. “Russian dislike to the Poles”. Poles hate Russians, and not Vice versa! The Poles killed more Russians, but are silent about this historians, no tantrums. The poles complexes. Remember the football championship, the Poles were beaten Russian fans.

    • First of all, your English is so bad that your message is very confused. Secondly, the facts speak for themselves. To all those Russian propagandists, the facts speak for themselves. Ask all those Russians in Israel and the United States why they left. Look up “The Black Hundreds” online and find out who was behind the pogroms – the Orthodox Church. The fact that the conference saw fit to move to an Orthodox monastery as the appropriate setting for a discussion on religious tolerance should tell you something.

      • agent.provocateur

        First of all, a decent person does not comment on someone’s English. How good is your Russian, cyka? Secondly, your comment as the article itself is hysterical in tone and content. Finally, please do us a favour and DO NOT write anything about Russia. I found this article by accident through google search and had a good laugh, but I am terrified by the idea someone can actually take you seriously. Write something about “gay rights” or “gender balance”; alternatively simply don’t write at all. From Russia with love:-)))

        • Otto Waldmann in Sydney

          Golubchik, thisis a very English language speaking and writing site, eta znachet shto if someone pissaet not ochen harasho in English, he cops it.
          Second, the issue is not how well Jews are doing in business ( some, of course ) in Russia, but how the Russian Orthodox Church still harbours anti Semitic feelings. How about you and your fair mates tell us a few enticing stories of your Church being our, the Jews, you know, best friend.

          Over to you, rebyata !!!

      • Lisa

        Excuse me Josephine, but wasn’t it Jews who instigated the murder of the czar and brought on communism which murdered millions upon millions of Russian Christians? Why is it the Western World never hears the truth about who was and is behind communism?

        • Yuri B

          Lisa, you have a very big mouth. One day it’s going to get you beaten up, possibly by a Jew like myself who escaped from Communism. I hope you learn your lesson soon about generalizing about entire groups of people, but then again it will probably be through the hard way.

    • Yuri B

      Так ли это? Я еврей, и я бежал из СССР. Если Россия под властью евреев, то почему Россия поддерживает Иран? И польские антисемиты любят российское правительство. Например, «ÐÐ°Ñ†Ð¸Ð¾Ð½Ð°Ð»ÑŒÐ½Ð¾Ðµ Возрождение Польши». Другие польские националисты, как «ÐŸÑ€Ð°Ð²Ð° и Правосудия», не все антисемиты, и они хотят в союз с литовскими, украинскими и белорусскими националистами.
      Я понимаю, что ты антисемит. Вообще очень глупый. По какому праву, Россия может быть империей? Когда Бог сказал, что завоевание других народов является приемлемым? Где это в учении Святой Православной Церкви?

  • Inner Sanctum

    The article is an absolute lie!

    I personally watched the live broadcast with Valdai of 3 hour, and there was a lot of Western journalists. Stop lying!

    The Jews now feels in Russia most freely in the history of our country. Ask the Jews who now live in Russia. Open new centers and synagogues, Jewish community leaders said in the press about the problems that exist in the country and the world. Judaism is considered “traditional religion” in Russia.

    Yes, in 90s was many “anti-Semitism” when people lived poorly and blamed for everything “Jewish oligarchs,” but now the problem is gone, however there was a problem of “Islamophobia”, which previously not was. The Jews, by the way, is also the Muslims do not like (and this is relative).

    By the way, seem “anti-Semitism” a big problem for America. I always see comments on English-language sites, where the scold “Zionists”, such in Russia are not. In general, look in the mirror and do not lying!

    Shame on you!

    • Yuri B

      Это потому, что Америка и Израиль- союзники. Американская внешняя политика поддерживает Израиль. Причина того, что видишь американцев против Израиля, многие американцы, которые ненавидят своего правительства, также они осуждают всех его союзников. Я надеюсь, что русский народ поддерживает Израиль, не только потому что его правительство поддерживает Иран

  • Nicolai Petro

    Among the numerous factual errors in this piece, I will highlight just one: “The speakers at the Valdai session on religion were made up exclusively of representatives of the Russian Orthodox and Muslim religions.”

    That is false. Rabbi Berel Lazar, Chief Rabbi of Russia, was scheduled to address the conference. Although he could not make, in his stead Rabbi Aron Gurevich spoke to the assembly. His thoughtful remarks were well quite received.

    • So they had a token Rabbi, not the rabbi they invited who was probably too ashamed or intimidated to come. Nothing has changed in Russia, as you saw from what I wrote, my daughter studied there, she does not look particularly Jewish, yet she was insulted several times in public, something that does not happen in the West, even to people openly displaying their religion like women wearing the hijab or men in turbans.

      • a gentile

        oh stop….jews in los angeles still call us “goyim” , which means cattle/sub human…

  • Alex

    Writer has no clue of politics and religion in Russian Empire.
    Priest was talking about Polish (not catholic) question as Poland was carved and Poles seeked national rights, and Jews had hard time during tsarist regime. Hence “Polish and Jewish” questions not being resolved in tsarist times.

    P.S. Im Jewish.

    • Otto Waldmann in Sydney

      Jewish Alex
      are suggesting that the Russian Orthodox Church’s heart is now bleeding for “its” poor Jewish souls !!!??

    • What has this to do with the former Russian Empire? We are in 2013 not 1913. The Russians were never “cleansed” of their antisemitism because they were on the winning side in World War II. Stalin was a classic example of a Russian antisemite with his removal of Trotsky, Kamenev and Lebedev and the doctors’ trials. And perhaps it has escaped your notice that Jews were discriminated against in every way, even those who didn’t ask to leave for Israel, denied employment for instance. Many people assume that the “new” Russia is different from Communist Russia, but in so many ways it is totally ureconstructed and this includes its religious and racial prejudice as well as foreign policy that has remained unchanged since the time of the Tsars, with that I agree. The “Polish question” is just as much to do with religion as with land-grabbing, just as in the case of the UK and Ireland.

      • Otto Waldmann in Sydney

        Josephine it was Kamenev and ZINOVIEV and the removal of Trotsky was not at all anti Semitic but strictly ideological. Stalin went chronically anti Semitic in his last days. Lenin had a lot more conflicts with the organised Jewish political arm, the Bund ( remember poor Ms Kaplan who shot him !?).
        Presently there are quite a few Jews in Russia doing a lot better than most poor Jews in USA and my Australia. Enough billionaires raoming the corridors of power in the Kremlin.
        The issue here is the CHURCH, an archaic monster living on a solid Jew hatred diet, and they look quite well fed…………

    • Contrabas

      “Writer has no clue of politics and religion in Russian Empire” – The writer has even less clue of politics and religion in modern Russia and shows clear evidence of her mental helpnessness by trying to make odious conclusions out of fake statements.
      The key message of the article is made by one of commenters – “Do not like Putin or the RUSSIANS much.” Curtain.

  • R. Feldman

    How about requesting the cooperation of travel companies in stating their formal objection to the Russian Orthodox hierarchy about this forum’s approach to Jews and Judaism? Companies such as Viking, Grand Circle, and Oceana count Jews as a significant customer base.

  • Otto Waldmann in Sydney

    The Russian, Orthodox, strand of Xtianity has been seriously predicated on anti Semitism. The type of so called reconcilliation which the Catholic Church entered with Judaism at the Vatican II is a phenomenon not even distantlly possibly contemplated in Moscow, Nizhnyi Novgorod or anywhere alse in the whole of that huge land, Russia. The “Jewish Problem” was but a simple call to pogroms, a signal to the primitive minds herded by their “spiritual” leaders into feasts of murder.
    Gaining impetus in a new Russia, the church is only reafirming its credo and ,for whatever material sacrifices/donations and spiritual allegiance it receives from its followers, it rewards them in return with the warm inner “blessed” satisfaction of sanctifying the hating of the Yids , just as in the good ol’ days. Thus, the ruskie dusha, the Russian soul, is being paternally touched by a worthy protector. A touch of criminality they call religion. Whate else can the church do, manufacture and export high performance cars !!??

  • Sandy Brown

    Do not like Putin or the Russians much. Why would you want to talk to him. He is a plonker.

    • a gentile

      I lie Putin, I live in the USA…The UK has looted us since 1913…

  • Efram Paul

    It is a Christian forum. Where have Jews ever received fair treatment at the hands of a Christian forum? Of course reporting on the event was extremely limited. It would hurt tourism if such blatant, and typical, bigotry were to be widely reported.

    • Yuri B

      I have lived for 27 years among an Eastern European Lutheran Christian population, in Ventspils. I am Jewish, and yes, I was discriminated against, but by a Communist government which also discriminated against Christians. The local Christians never committed any anti-Semitism against me. The Orthodox Church does have some problems with anti-Semitism, but that does not mean all of Christianity does, and even all the Orthodox Church does.