Massive Jewish Migration From Russia Amid Fears Of Persecution

Wednesday, August 17, 2022 | Tag Cloud Tags: , , ,

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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent

MOSCOW/JERUSALEM (Worthy News) – Fearing persecution, one in eight Jews living in Russia fled the country since its war with Ukraine began, representatives, say.

The Jewish Agency, which helps Jews to move to Israel, estimates that an unprecedented 20,500 of Russia’s roughly 165,000 Jews left since March.

Thousands more went to other countries. Separately, thousands of Jews flee Ukraine, most of them women, Israeli officials say.

Among those fleeing Russia are the Chief Rabbi of Moscow, Pinchas Goldschmidt, and his family, who left Russia, first to Hungary and then to Israel.

Goldschmidt says he fled after he refused a request from state officials to support Russia’s military attack against Ukraine publicly.

“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,” the capital, he said.


The Zurich-born Goldschmidt had served in Moscow since 1989 and was elected chief rabbi of Moscow in 1993.

Some Russian Jews criticized him for leaving and speaking out, saying it could mean more scrutiny of the community, but most were supportive, said Rabbi Goldschmidt.

“I received some messages saying ‘How can you leave us alone?’ but I would say the great majority were extremely supportive. It was not a minor conflict to decide whether to go; for my wife and me, the community was our lives,” he explained.

Rabbi Goldschmidt says that it was through staying and speaking out that the community could have been left endangered. Since then, thousands more have followed his lead, official data shows.

Goldschmidt said he left with mixed feelings as there had been a colossal effort in Moscow to develop the Jewish community following the collapse of Communism.

“We started from scratch with synagogues, schools, kindergartens, social services, teachers, rabbis, and community members,” he explained.


Berel Lazar, Russia’s chief rabbi who also chairs the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia and the Federation of Jewish Communities of the Commonwealth of Independent States, remains in Russia despite publicly opposing the war in Ukraine.

Earlier this year, Lazar called for participants in the battles to “silence the guns and to stop the bombs,” although he stopped short of condemning President Vladimir Putin.

He also lashed out in May against his country’s foreign minister, who suggested that some of the worst antisemites were Jewish and that Adolf Hitler had Jewish ancestry.

He called the remarks by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “shocking” and said he wished the minister would apologize.

His criticism was unusual in Russia, where several other clergies have been supportive of the war in Ukraine and where dissent has primarily been made illegal.

And with pressure mounting, many Jews reportedly fear they will be singled out for attacks by not publicly supporting Putin’s war effort.


Before the latest figures were announced, Israel’s Immigration Ministry said that between the outbreak of the Russian invasion on February 24 and July 31, some 18,891 Jews arrived from Russia.

Additionally, Israel received 12,175 new immigrants from Ukraine in that period, the ministry said.

Most of the immigrants from Russia and Ukraine are Jews, but some may only have close relatives who are Jewish, according to experts.

Under Israel’s Law of Return, a person needs at least one Jewish grandparent to be entitled to immediate citizenship.

Some 63 percent of Ukrainian immigrants are women, while those from Russia were split mainly evenly between men and women, according to officials.

The fighting in Ukraine, Europe’s most significant conflict since World War Two, has killed tens of thousands of people, including at least some Jews.

The fighting devastated several cities and forced about one-third of Ukrainians from their homes. In recent months, Jewish representatives and Israel have offered to mediate in the conflict, but there are no signs the war will end soon.

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