Thursday, August 7, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Russia’s Jewish Organizations Compete for Influence in Occupied Crimea

Paul Goble


            Staunton, August 7 – The Federation of Jewish Organizations of Russia (FEOR) which unites Hassidic Jewry in Russia and the Russian Jewish Congress which unites Reform Judaism there have been competing for influence over the estimated 15,000 Jews in Crimea since the Russian occupation of that Ukrainian territory.


            In the new issue of “NG-Religii,” Andrey Melnikov, its editor, says that after the annexation, the reform Jews of Crimea preferred to deal with the Russian Jewish Congress, but that FEOR dispatched its own representatives to the peninsula in the hopes of gaining the upper hand (


            To that end, FEOR representatives have announced plans to build what Melnikov calls “a large spiritual center” in Simferopol “similar to those which the organization has already erected in various cities, including Moscow” and thus serve to inspire and promote the revival of Judaism in Crimea.


            The interaction of the two has not been without problems, the “NG-Religii” editor continues, all the more so that at least one of the Lubavicher communities lost its permanent rabbi who returned to the United States shortly before the Moscow-orchestrated referendum on March 16. FEOR is ready to help that one and another has refused to take Russian citizenship.


            Reformist Jewish communities who are the more numerous in recent years, however, prefer to get assistance from others.  One ongoing project, the reconstruction of a synagogue built in 1893, is going forward with the help of the Russian Jewish Congress, the World Union of Progressive Judaism, Israel’s Sokhnut agency, the American Joint Organization, and the Federal Jewish National-Cultural Autonomy of the Russian Federation.

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