The exiled chief rabbi of Moscow says Jews should get out while they can. [The Guardian/Stephen Burgen]
Pinchas Goldschmidt says that, historically in Russia and the USSR, when things go bad, the government scapegoats Jews.
Jews have been fleeing Russia for a century. In 1926, there were 2.7 million Jews in the USSR, 59% of whom were in Ukraine. “Today only about 165,000 Jews remain in the Russian Federation out of a total population of 145 million.”
My own grandparents bugged out of Eastern Europe around 1900. Poland on my father’s side, Lithuania on my mother’s.
Ukraine has a long history of antisemitism from pogroms at the end of the 19th century to facilitating Nazi massacres during the second world war. The most notorious of these was the murder of 33,000 Jews at Babi Yar in Kyiv in 1941.
Given this history, Goldschmidt said it was remarkable that Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who made no secret of his Jewishness, was elected Ukraine’s president with more 70% of the vote.
That fact made a nonsense of Vladimir Putin’s claim that Ukraine was being governed by neo-Nazis, the rabbi said. “Show me another country that is in the grip of Nazis where the Jewish community is thriving.
“However, I don’t know how Jewish the president [Zelenskiy] feels. He plays the Jewish card to ask Israel for help.”
I imagine Zelensky’s Jewishness is much the same as my own. I am not observant, nor do I have a religious preference in my associations. But am I Jewish? Hell, yeah.
Goldschmidt also noted that while Russia’s Jews faced an uncertain future, antisemitism was on the rise in what had long been seen as a Jewish sanctuary, the US.
In 2018, a gunman killed 11 worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue. Last year the Anti-Defamation League recorded a record 2,717 antisemitic incidents in the US, ranging from assault and harassment to vandalism.
“For many years, Jews in the US believed that it was an exception, that whatever happened in Europe and other countries could never happen there,” Goldschmidt said. “But over the past three years there have been more attacks on Jews there than in Europe.
I have not been alarmed by the rise of anti-Semitism in the US. It still seems like a lunatic fringe. But perhaps I should be alarmed.