Staunton, December 11 – Rabbi Aleksandr Boroda, the president o f the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FEOR), says that Jews in the Russian capital are planning to build a number of new synagogues so that the religious in the capital will be able to walk to them and thus not violate sabbath rules.
At present, there are slightly more than 20 synagogues in Moscow, a number that might seem sufficient for the roughly 100,000 Jews living there, especially given that many of them are not religious. But many Jews live far from any one of them and cannot attend services without having to use proscribed means of transportation (ria.ru/20201211/sinagogi-1588723896.html).
Two things about Boroda’s announcement make it important. On the one hand, he has picked up the argument of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church that more of its churches must be opened because there should be enough religious facilities to be “within walking distance.”
And on the other, the FEOR leader’s use of this argument is certain to be picked up by Muslim leaders in Moscow and indeed other Russian cities. After all, there are an estimated 2.5 million Muslims in the Russian capital and only six public mosques, a far more radical imbalance than either Orthodox Christians or Jews already experience.
Up to now, the Jewish community in the Russian capital has sought to develop the synagogues it already has rather than build a large number of additional ones; but this change in approach will certainly spark new tensions not only because of the traditional NIMBY objections but also because other faiths, and the Muslims in the first instance, will likely follow its course.