MOSCOW, April 21 — The Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar told the Limmud FSU Moscow conference today that Russian President Vladimir Putin has done more for the Jewish community in Russia including fighting anti-Semitism than any other Russian leader.

Rabbi Lazar, addressing more than 2,000 Jews at the Limmud FSU (former Soviet Union) “FSU Study” conference today, said: “Putin was the first president to publicly speak out against anti-Semitism and did the most for the Jews in Russia. There is no institutional anti-Semitism in Russia. The attitude toward the Jews in Russia is excellent.”

Referring to Putin, the rabbi compared him favorably with previous Russian leaders. “In contrast to Gorbachev and Yeltsin, who were not interested in hearing about the situation of the Jews in Russia, Putin was the first to say that anti-Semitism has no place in Russia. He was the first to speak publicly against anti-Semitism, and did the most for the Jews in Russia. This is not self-evident, nor is it obvious that there can be a conference in Russia today like the study of FSU with more than 2,000 Jews.”

Regarding recent anti-Semitic statements by Russian parliamentarians, Lazar said, “It’s just a drop in the ocean. These statements are of course inappropriate, but they are not the end of the world either. Our goal is to have a finger on the pulse and raise the issues on the political level in order to protect the Jewish community. We must cooperate with the government as long as it protects us.”

On a more amusing note, Lazar referred to the Russian authorities’ policy of banning the popular Pokemon Go mobile phone game in religious institutions. “If anyone finds Pokemon in our synagogues, we will be glad.”

Lazar also warned that French Jews should leave that country if nationalist presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, who is leading in current polls, should win the election. “The situation in Europe is very worrying. If Marine Le Pen is elected president of France, the Jews must leave,” he said.

He also voiced general concern about the rise of nationalism across Europe. “The situation there is very worrying. Not only because of immigrants, but also because the general population is heading toward radicalization. The best example of this is the rise of extreme-right parties.”

When asked about recent media reports linking President Donald Trump and Chabad, Lazar said: “I do not like that people are intentionally looking for ties between Trump and Chabad or between Trump and the Jews in general. The only thing I can say it, it’s excellent that Ivanka Trump is Jewish, and that Trump’s grandchildren are Jewish too, but I have nothing to add beyond that.”

Before the U.S. presidential election, Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner visited the grave of the late Lubavitch Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, in Queens, N.Y. The site is popular among Orthodox Jews seeking a blessing and inspiration.

Lazar also defended Putin for his role in supporting Syrian President Bashir Assad. “It is not certain that there are better options for Syria than Assad. The Arab spring did not produce positive results. It seems that the Arab countries are not yet ready to accept the rule of democracy.”

Below please find photos of Rabbi Lazar at the Limmud FSU conference in Moscow. Photo Credit: Limmud FSU.

Photo #1: Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar speaking at Limmud FSU Moscow.

Photo #2: Rabbi Lazar, right, addressing the crowd at Limmud FSU Moscow.

About Limmud FSU:

Limmud FSU is a nonprofit founded 10 years ago by Chaim Chesler, former treasurer of the Jewish Agency, and Sandra Cahn, a philanthropist from New York. Since its inaugural conference in Moscow in 2006, Limmud FSU has created an independent educational and communal network of annual conferences and festivals, attracting more than 45,000 participants in Russia (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Russian Far East and the Volga-Ural region), Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Israel, North America (Greater New York, the West Coast, and Canada), and Australia. Limmud FSU engages young Russian-Jewish adults, empowering them to take ownership of their identity and to connect with their communities through pluralistic, egalitarian volunteer-driven conferences of Jewish learning and culture. In this way, Limmud FSU strives to foster the next generation of young Russian-speaking Jewish leadership and so revitalize Jewish communities in the countries of the former Soviet Union, and in countries with Russian-Jewish communities, wherever they may be. Key partners include the Claims Conference, JDC, GPG, philanthropist Matthew Bronfman, Aaron Frenkel, Ronald Lauder, Diane Wohl, the Jewish National Fund (KKL), UJA-Federation of New York, Israel Bonds, the Jewish Agency, and others. For additional details:


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