After Three Decades of Relative Security, Something Has Changed for Russian Jews

Aug. 10 2022

Writing of Vladimir Putin’s “warm and conciliatory gestures” toward the Jewish state in 2016, Arthur Herman noted that “Israel was the first foreign country he visited after his re-accession to the Russian presidency in 2012, going so far as to don a kippah on his visit to the Western Wall in the company of Berel Lazar, Russia’s chief rabbi.” Such behavior would have been unimaginable from any of the tsars or party secretaries who preceded Putin. But now, with increasing chilliness between Moscow and Jerusalem and the Russian government’s attempt to close the Jewish Agency, something seems to have changed. Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt—whose father-in-law, the chief rabbi of Moscow, recently fled the country because of his criticism of the war on Ukraine—comments:

Since the Soviet collapse in 1991, synagogues, schools, youth groups, and Jewish-owned businesses in Moscow had flourished. In 2007, Putin famously donated a month’s salary to the glitzy Moscow Museum of Tolerance, and the FSB (formerly the KGB) offered its support to the museum by providing documents from its archives. In recent years, a Jew wearing a yarmulke would have felt more comfortable walking in Moscow than in Paris.

For two decades, the Russian president has cultivated an image of himself as the philo-Semite-in-chief. . . . There was a reason for this: as long as you had the Jews in your corner, you couldn’t be a fascist. And being anti-fascist was central to the story that the Soviets, and now the Russians, tell about themselves. Just ask anyone who’s spent Victory Day in Moscow. It masked Russia’s own, darker, fascistic impulses—which we are now seeing play out in Ukraine.

But now the charade is up. . . . In May, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted that Hitler had “Jewish blood.” In June, the television anchor Vladimir Solovyev took to Russia’s Channel 1, which is really a Kremlin media organ, to warn of Russian-speaking “traitors” who “have some relation to the Jewish people.” “You sold out our people long ago, when you decided to serve those who are reviving Nazi ideas in Europe,” Solovyev said.

Since [the renewal of fighting with Ukraine in February], more Jews have emigrated from Russia to Israel than they have from Ukraine.

In a recent interview, Chizhik-Goldschmidt’s father-in-law, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, stated bluntly, “I reached the realization that today, from every perspective, it’s better for Jews not to be in Russia.”

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Read more at Common Sense

More about: Anti-Semitism, Russian Jewry, Vladimir Putin

 

How the Death of Mahsa Amini Changed Iran—and Its Western Apologists

Sept. 28 2022

On September 16, a twenty-two-year-old named Mahsa Amini was arrested by the Iranian morality police for improperly wearing a hijab. Her death in custody three days later, evidently after being severely beaten, sparked waves of intense protests throughout the country. Since then, the Iranian authorities have killed dozens more in trying to quell the unrest. Nervana Mahmoud comments on how Amini’s death has been felt inside and outside of the Islamic Republic:

[I]n Western countries, the glamorizing of the hijab has been going on for decades. Even Playboy magazine published an article about the first “hijabi” news anchor in American TV history. Meanwhile, questioning the hijab’s authenticity and enforcement has been framed as “Islamophobia.” . . . But the death of Mahsa Amini has changed everything.

Commentators who downplayed the impact of enforced hijab have changed their tune. [Last week], CNN’s Christiane Amanpour declined an interview with the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, and the Biden administration imposed sanctions on Iran’s notorious morality police and senior officials for the violence carried out against protesters and for the death of Mahsa Amini.

The visual impact of the scenes in Iran has extended to the Arab world too. Arabic media outlets have felt the winds of change. The death of Mahsa Amini and the resulting protests in Iran are now top headlines, with Arab audiences watching daily as Iranian women from all age groups remove their hijabs and challenge the regime policy.

Iranian women are making history. They are teaching the world—including the Muslim world—about the glaring difference between opting to wear the hijab and being forced to wear it, whether by law or due to social pressure and mental bullying. Finally, non-hijabi women are not afraid to defy, proudly, their Islamist oppressors.

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Read more at Nervana

More about: Arab World, Iran, Women in Islam