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The Death of Boris Nemtsov and the Future of Jews in Russia

March 9 2015

Boris Nemtsov, the recently murdered Russian opposition politician, was born to a Jewish mother; although he converted to Russian Orthodoxy after the fall of the Soviet Union, he occasionally expressed pride in his Jewish origins. Pinchas Goldschmidt, chief rabbi of Moscow, reflects on what his death signifies for Russian Jewry:

Nemtsov and many other Russian politicians of Jewish descent, whether part of the opposition or supporters of Putin, are more reluctant today than ever before to express their Jewishness openly, trying to hide their Jewish descent behind the façade of a religious conversion, not unlike the Jews in 19th-century Germany, and not unlike Heinrich Heine, the famous German Jewish writer who considered his conversion to Christianity as the entrance ticket to European culture.

With each passing day, the Orthodox church is becoming more visible and present in the Russian state and government, not unlike pre-revolutionary times, where the state and the church were one.

This state of affairs has also had many ramifications on different levels. Practicing Jews in higher government positions are afraid to hold public life-cycle events, and Jews in higher government positions are being approached by representatives of the church with soft-sell advice to convert to the state church. Jews who converted do not necessarily find the pastures greener on the other side of the fence, and there is no guarantee that they will not be considered Jews by anti-Semites.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Anti-Semitism, Orthodox Christianity, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Russian Jewry

Why a Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza Is Unlikely

Feb. 16 2018

High-ranking figures in the IDF, along with some Israeli and foreign officials, have been warning that economic troubles combined with severely deficient public works could lead to an outbreak of starvation or epidemic in the Gaza Strip; their warnings have been taken up and amplified in sensationalist stories in Western media. Hillel Frisch is skeptical:

The most important factor behind real humanitarian crises—mass hunger and contagious disease—is first and foremost the breakdown of law and order, and violence between warring militias and gangs. This is what occurred in Darfur, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. In such situations, the first to leave are the relief agencies. Then local medical staffs evacuate, along with local government officials and anyone professional who can make it out of the bedlam. The destitute are left to fend for themselves. Hospitals, dispensaries, schools, and local government offices are soon abandoned or become scenes of grisly shootouts and reprisals.

Nothing could be farther from such a reality than Gaza. Hamas, which is the main source of [misleading reports] of an imminent humanitarian crisis, rules Gaza with an iron fist. Few developed democracies in the world can boast the low homicide rates prevailing in the Strip. Nor have there been reports of any closings of hospitals, municipal governments, schools, universities, colleges, or dispensaries. . . .

Nor have there been news items announcing the departure of any foreign relief agencies or the closure of any human-rights organizations in the area. Nor is there any evidence that the World Health Organization (WHO), which rigorously monitors the world to prevent the outbreak of contagious disease, is seriously looking at Gaza. And that is for good reason. The WHO knows, as do hundreds of medical personnel in Israeli hospitals who liaise with their colleagues in Gaza, that the hospital system in Gaza is of a high caliber, certainly by the standards of the developing world. . . .

Hamas, [of course], wants more trucks entering Gaza to increase tax revenues to pay for its 30,000-strong militia and public security force, and to increase the prospects of smuggling arms for the benefit of its missile stockpiles and tunnel-building efforts. How Israel should react is equally obvious. You want more humanitarian aid? . . . Free the two mentally disabled Israelis who found their way into Gaza and are imprisoned by Hamas.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian economy