Multiple Jewish organizations in Russia have received threatening letters in recent weeks from the Russian Justice Ministry regarding their work, similar to the letter received by the Jewish Agency earlier this month, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The Jerusalem Post has learned that several Jewish organizations operating in Russia are in a similar situation to that of the Jewish Agency. The agency has received a letter from the Russian government, that said it might be considered a foreign agent, which could result in the organization being forcibly closed down.
One of the organizations sent a statement claiming, “There is no change in our work in Russia.” Yet The Post understands that these organizations, mainly kept in operation by American or Israeli funds, have decided to lower their profile and only do work that is necessary or urgent.
The Jewish Agency received a letter from the Russian government that said it might be considered a foreign agent, which could result in the organization being forcibly closed down.
Jewish organizations that are considered local, without any foreign funding or influence, have not received any letters of warning and can continue to operate freely, although many of them are still choosing to keep a low public profile.
Russian-Jewish sources said on Monday that the Agency has been under close surveillance in Russia for many years.
“I remember participating in an aliyah conference of the agency in Russia about 7 years ago and it was closed down by The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB RF).”Source
“I remember participating in an aliyah conference of the Agency in Russia about seven years ago, and it was closed down by the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation [FSB RF],” said one source about the main successor agency to the Soviet Union’s KGB. “The FSB RF agents actually accompanied the Israeli participants of the conference to Israel on their flight.”
Russia forcing Jewish Agency to stop operations in the country
As discovered by the Post three weeks ago, the Russian government has ordered the Jewish Agency to cease all operations inside the country. The order was given in a letter received from the Russian Justice Ministry. Officials in the Jewish Agency confirmed that the letter was received and later officially responded on the matter.
The forced closure of the Jewish Agency’s offices in Russia will have a serious impact on Israel-Russia relations, Prime Minister Yair Lapid warned on Sunday.
“Relations with Russia are important to Israel, [but] the Jewish community in Russia is large and important and comes up in every diplomatic discussion with the government in Moscow,” he said.
Lapid’s remarks came after the Russian Justice Ministry took action against the Jewish agency, claiming it was illegally gathering information about Russian citizens. The Israeli organization, which coordinates efforts to help Jews around the world to move to Israel, among other activities, has taken steps to move its Russian operations to Israel and online.
Jerusalem views the matter as diplomatic and not a legal matter. As such, Israel is considering numerous retaliatory steps should the Russian authorities shut down the Jewish Agency’s offices, These include further delaying proceedings on the ownership of the Alexander Courtyard in Jerusalem, which Moscow believes should be its property or further acts in support of Ukraine in the war with Russia. Another possibility is to call back Israel’s Ambassador to Russia Alexander Ben-Zvi for consultations.
Lapid held a classified meeting on Sunday with Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata; Housing and Construction Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who served as translator in meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin for prime ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett; senior officials in the Prime Minister’s Office, Foreign Ministry and National Security Council; and officials from the Jewish Agency.
A participant in the meeting said that Russia’s actions were “an attack on the heart of the essence of the State of Israel. There is a real fear that the aliyah [Jewish immigration] from Russia will stop, and therefore the Israeli government is investing as much time and effort as needed.”
Following his plan announced last week to send a legal delegation to Russia for talks about the matter, Lapid instructed delegates to be ready to fly to Russia immediately upon authorization from Moscow. He told them to make every effort to exhaust the legal dialogue and high-level diplomatic talks to allow the Jewish Agency to continue to help Russian Jews immigrate to Israel.