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September 6, 2022 4:59 pm
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Group of Russian Rabbis Call for End to War in Ukraine

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Smoke rises after missile strikes, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine June 5, 2022. Photo: REUTERS/Vladyslav Sodel

A group of rabbis convened by the Federation of Jewish Community in Russia have passed a resolution urging an end to the War in Ukraine, citing its potentially negative effect on Russian Jews.

“Relations between Russia and the rest of the world have rapidly deteriorated since the invasion began in February, resulting in economic uncertainty, and of significant concern to the Jewish community in particular, a sense of fear and isolation not felt in decades,” the resolution said, pleading for “peace and the cessation of the bloodshed.”

The resolution added: “We are shocked that some individuals not only believe that rabbis have a duty to jeopardize their communities by engaging in political activities or even to abandon their community altogether as a form of political protest.”

Approved on Monday during a conference in Moscow, the resolution follows months of mounting tension between Russia and Israel over the Russian Ministry of Justice’s petition to close the Jewish Agency in Moskva based on unfounded allegations that the nonprofit maintains a database of information on Russian citizens.

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A court hearing on the matter was scheduled for August 19 but was postponed. Discussions between Israeli and Russian officials about it are ongoing.

The Jewish Agency manages emigration from Russia to Israel, and more than 16,000 Russian Jews have departed for Israel since Moscow launched the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. 600,000 others are eligible to relocate in Israel, Israel’s immigration minister, Pnina Tamano-Shata said in July.

Meanwhile, Moscow’s Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt fled the country for Israel in July and soon after criticized the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine.

Another wedge between the two countries is criticism of Russia’s aggression by Israeli leaders.

In April, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid described the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a “serious violation of the international order,” accusing Russian forces of committing “war crimes” in the town of Bucha. Months later, a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman accused Israeli politicians of making “unobjective” and “biased” statements about the conflict.

Russian Jews have been free to immigrate to Israel since the end of the Cold War, when the cause of the imprisoned Soviet Jews who wished to flee the Soviet Union — refuseniks — became a rallying cry for human rights activists across the world.

But Jewish leaders have expressed fears that the clock is turning back, including Rabbi Goldschmidt, who in July said that “many dark clouds on the horizon.”

In August, Natan Sharansky, a former Refusenik and Soviet dissident, warned that that “the moment the regime becomes more and more totalitarian….Jews will become scapegoats again, then immediately antisemitism on the streets will come back.”

“It hasn’t happened yet,” he continued. “And let’s hope it will not happen.”

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