The Jewish Agency for Israel has revealed that since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, at least one in eight of Russia’s Jewish population has left the country.
According to the report, an astounding 20,500 of Russia’s estimated total of 165,000 Jews have fled since March. It was also revealed that thousands more have left the country.
Many people involved in this sudden mass migration as well as those who are still trying to flee Russia have undoubtedly had the spectre of historical Jewish persecution on their minds.
Since the collapse of communism, The Kremlin has made significant efforts to increase its Jewish population. Pinchas Goldschmidt, the city’s chief rabbi since 1993, was one of those who led the effort to help the Jewish community in Russia.
“We started from scratch with synagogues, schools, kindergartens, social services, teachers, rabbis and community members.”
Rabbi Goldschmidt and his family, however, left Russia just two weeks into this year’s conflict, travelling first to Hungary and then to Israel.
He gave up his position and spoke out against the conflict. He argued”I felt that I had to do something to show my total disassociation and disagreement with this invasion of Ukraine, but I would have endangered myself if I had done that staying in Moscow.”
It was also revealed that many people have since followed his example.
Many people have seized the chance to travel to Israel, where the Law of Return grants citizenship to anyone who can substantiate, they have at least one Jewish grandparent.
“I have been thinking quite a bit about why there is such a rush to go because we are not seeing a huge surge of anti-Semitism,” said Anna Shternshis, a professor of Yiddish studies at the University of Toronto and an authority on Jewish history in Russia.
Professor Shternshis disclosed that she was a native Russian who had grown up there. She expressed her feelings, saying that she is especially appalled by the way that Jews feel as though their efforts to establish a life elsewhere might be suddenly destroyed, despite how much time and effort they have invested in doing so.
She added, “But then putting my historian hat on, I see that every time something happens in Russia, some upheaval, some change, Jews are always in danger.”
The Soviet Union had formerly had the largest Jewish population in the world. Jews historically have made up a fundamentally large religious and ethnic diaspora in Russia.
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