Moscow luring Russian ex-pats to former Jewish autonomous region

World Forum of Russian-speaking Jewry dismisses plan to encourage settlement of Russian expatriates in Birobidzhan.

August 20, 2013 01:56
Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev with Russia's Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar in Birobidzhan.

Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev in Birobidzhan.. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ria Novosti/Kremlin/Dmitry Astakhov)

The World Forum of Russian-speaking Jewry on Monday dismissed a Russian plan to encourage settlement of Russian expatriates in the former Jewish autonomous region of Birobidzhan.

Earlier this month Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed off on a program to offer financial inducements to bring over 2,000 people to the Chinese border region, RIA Novosti reported.

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Birobidzhan was established in 1934 to serve as a Jewish autonomous oblast, or ethnic enclave. As of 2010 only around one percent of Birobidzhan residents was Jewish.

Settlers would receive around $8,000, covering their relocation expenses, health insurance and other needs, eJewishPhilanthropy reported.

Alexander Levin, president of the World Forum of Russian-speaking Jewry, is skeptical of the program.

“We do not think that today, for the Jews, this initiative is relevant or realistic, as the Jews in Russia and Ukraine and other post-soviet countries live in big cities and are economically successful for the most part,” he told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

“Jews have a strong and developed State of Israel, and it is specifically there that they should go to in order to express their Jewish national identity.”

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