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January 20, 2016 12:24 pm

Russian Governor Invites Europe’s Persecuted Jews to Resettle in Siberian ‘Jewish State’

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A giant menorah in Birobidzhan, the administrative center of the Autonomous Jewish Oblast in Far East Russia. Photo: Wikipedia

A giant menorah in Birobidzhan, the administrative center of the Autonomous Jewish Oblast in Far East Russia. Photo: Wikipedia

The head of Russia’s Far East Jewish Autonomous Region in Siberia has invited the Jews of Europe suffering antisemitism to come and resettle in his oblast, which once had a population of at least 17,000 Jewish residents.

Aleksandr Levintal, the governor of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, said his region “will welcome Jews from European countries, where they may face attacks by antisemitic elements,” Radio Free Europe reported on Wednesday.

Levintal also noted that his oblast, whose 1934 establishment predated the 1948 declaration of Israeli independence, was the “first officially established Jewish statehood.”

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Although the region maintains its Jewish namesake, Jews represent a minuscule share of the oblast’s population. According to Radio Free Europe, the Jewish population hovers around 1,600 of the region’s 180,000 residents. The region is in Russia’s far east and borders China.

Levintal’s comments came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin told members of the European Jewish Congress that the Jews of Europe who feel threatened by antisemitism could come to Russia.

Most of the Jewish emigration from Europe comes from France, with thousands reported to have immigrated to Israel, the US, UK, Canada and other countries last year.

EJC President Moshe Kantor told Putin, “Statistically, the position of Jews in Europe is the worst since the end of WWII. The prospect of Jewish exodus from certain parts of Europe is quite real.”

“It’s not just terror attacks against our communities, say, in Toulouse, Brussels, Paris or Copenhagen. It is a daily sense of fear, because of which we are afraid of walking the streets of cities in the countries we live without hiding that we are Jews. It is the need to live behind thick doors and high fences under the surveillance of video cameras in search of protection,” he said, according to Russian news agency TASS.

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