BLOG: 2010 A Banner Year for Russia’s Jewish Community

BLOG: 2010 A Banner Year for Russia’s Jewish Community

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by Baila Olidort

January 4, 2011

It is no small irony that while Jewish populations are dwindling in European countries where Jews are made to feel unwelcome, Russia’s is thriving.

Anti-semitism has spiked in major EU cities, among them Amsterdam, Antwerp, Paris and most notably, Malmo, where the government is doing little to deter pedestrian anti-semitism, compelling many to leave for more hospitable places.

But in the Former Soviet Union, where less than 20 years ago Jews suffered state-sanctioned oppression and were denied the freedom to practice as Jews, the tables have turned.  

According to Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, 2010 was a good year, marked by the opening of new synagogues and community centers in Derbent and Tomsk, as well as Malakhovka and Ramenskoye in the Moscow region.

As well, a synagogue opened in Arkhangelsk, in Russia’s far north, and Jewish prisoners there now have a prayer room on the premises of the prison—something unimaginable here in recent history.

According to the Federation of Jewish Communities, it reached more than 120,000 people with its social and humanitarian programs in 2010. These include the widespread distribution of food packages, 90,000 free meals monthly, free medical services at the FJC Rambam Medical Center in Moscow, and 1,000 tons of humanitarian aid.

And, as reported on last year, Russia’s schools have implemented the course on the Foundations of Religious Culture and Secular Ethics, exposing public school children to basic Judaism—another dramatic and consequential first in a country where this was strictly verboten.

Rabbi Lazar is often proud to say that as regards its support for Jewish life today, many can take a lesson from Russia. Who’d have imagined . . ..

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