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.
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