Moscow held its first international conference against anti-Semitism, and the WJC thanked Pres. Putin – but the Russians may have failed their first test.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder, speaking on Tuesday at the first Moscow International Conference on Combating Anti-Semitism, thanked Russia for its efforts to make Jews feel welcome in the country, after a long history of hostility and hardship.
Lauder expressed his appreciation for the Russian attempts to crack down on anti-Semitism. “At a time when global terrorism singles out Jews around the world, when we see the impact of intolerance and hate on every continent,” Lauder said, “here in Russia, the Jewish community is thriving. Jewish kindergartens and Jewish schools are filled to capacity, synagogues are crowded on Shabbat.”
He contrasted this with the situation in Western Europe, “where Jews are seriously thinking of leaving.”
Lauder’s remarks were not timed perfectly well, as it was reported that a Jewish teacher in Moscow was being investigated by her employers for distributing a questionnaire to students asking how they feel about Jews.
It was learned that the vice principal of the Moscow State Education College said the teacher should be “punished” for conducting such an experiment on her 16-year-old students and “[putting] her own ethnicity at the center of a classroom exercise.”
The questionnaire asked the students about their personal backgrounds and general attitudes “toward people of other ethnicities.” The last three questions focused exclusively on Jews, asking how the students “feel about the Jews who live in Moscow,” how willing they would be to “interact with these people?” and if they feel that the “Jews [are] involved in the nation’s current crisis.”
Notwithstanding this local mishap, Lauder praised President Putin for having “made Russia a country where Jews are welcome. And that’s not just a good thing for Jews. It is good for Russia as well… We [the WJC] want to be able to count on Russia as a solid friend.”
“However,” Lauder said, “just two weeks ago, at the United Nations, UNESCO erased thousands of years of Jewish history from Jerusalem.
Unbelievably, they renamed the Temple Mount, the same temple built by King Solomon, solely by its Muslim name. I was even more surprised, and frankly disappointed, that Russia supported this resolution, a resolution that helps no-one.
That’s like trying to deny any Russian connection to St. Basil’s. That’s ridiculous.”
“When people blame Israel for all the wrongs in the world, it is important to remember one of history’s most crucial lessons: When governments go after Jews first, it never stops with the Jews,” Lauder said. “As our world becomes more complex and more dangerous, we hope that we will always be able to count on Russia.”
The Moscow International Conference on Combating Anti-Semitism, taking place November 1 and 2, is the first event of its kind in Russia, as well as anywhere else in the Former Soviet Union. The conference was organized by the Russian Jewish Congress under the auspices of the Russian Government and is co-sponsored by the World Jewish Congress, the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, and the Genesis philanthropy group.
At the closing session of the conference, delegates will adopt the “Moscow Declaration,” a resolution on fighting anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred and discrimination. Results of a survey on anti-Semitism conducted by the Russian Jewish Congress will also be released to the delegates.