Wednesday 12 May


by Leonid Finkelstein, Keston News Service

Speaking exclusively to Keston Institute, the CHIEF RABBI of Moscow said that antisemitic pronouncements by some communists and ultra-nationalists in Russia did not in any way affect Jewish religious or community life there.

RABBI PINCHAS GOLDSCHMIDT, who is also President of the Rabbinical Court of the Union of Jewish Communities in the Commonwealth of Independent States, claimed that recent antisemitic outbursts by GENERAL MAKASHOV and even the explosions of two small charges near Moscow synagogues did not intimidate anyone in the Jewish community. Such episodes, he said, did not indicate an increase or wider dissemination of antisemitic feelings in Russia. On the contrary, they showed that all efforts of the antisemites to foment hatred towards Jews were in vain.

�For several years now, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, various extremists have been publishing wildly antisemitic literature�, said Rabbi Goldschmidt. �They are peddling their rags in Moscow underpasses or at street corners. Regrettably, they are aided and abetted by some members of the Russian Orthodox clergy. And what is the result? Virtually nil. I am sorry to relate that last year there was an antisemitic killing - in New York. But not in Moscow or anywhere in Russia, throughout the whole period of brazen antisemitic propaganda waged by those like Makashov and others.�

According to Rabbi Goldschmidt, the main change in the life of Jews in Russia occurred at the end of 1980s when official anti-Semitism was dead and buried. At the same time freedom of the press was introduced - and those frustrated antisemites got the chance to vent their hatred openly. To their utter disappointment there was practically no response at all from the population. Now, using the hardships of many Russians, they were trying again. Makashov and the Communist party leader ZYUGANOV believed that their antijewish stance would help them politically. But their hopes were most probably misplaced. There were about 150 centres of Jewish community life in Moscow alone - synagogues, schools, social organisations - and none of them experienced hostility from the Russians.

Rabbi Goldschmidt said that, as a result of Jewish emigration in previous years, the number of Jews in Moscow fell to about three hundred thousand. Now, however, only around one thousand emigrated every year. He was convinced that the religious and community life of Jews in Russian cities was well established and would continue.

Born in Switzerland, educated in the United States and having been a rabbi in Israel, Pinchas Goldschmidt was invited to serve in Moscow in 1989. Since then he has been living in the Russian capital with his wife and, now, six children. �I have no plans to leave Russia�, says Dr Goldschmidt. (END)