Russian chief rabbi to 'Post': Stronger steps needed to fight anti-Semitism

"As long as anti-Semitic propaganda can be found in the center of Moscow, we can't be sure there won't be another slaughter of Jews somewhere."

rabbi berl lazar 298 88 (photo credit: Ksenia Svetlova)
rabbi berl lazar 298 88
(photo credit: Ksenia Svetlova)
The attack on a Moscow synagogue earlier this year could harbinger more such incidents if the Russian government does not take stronger action to crack down on extremists, Russia's Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar has told The Jerusalem Post in an interview. "The displays of anti-Semitism in Russia are linked to the rise of extremism and xenophobia in the country," he said "The government should do more to crack down. " "As long as anti-Semitic literature and propaganda can be found in the center of Moscow, and the people who disseminate hideous materials on the Internet continue to get away with it, we cannot be sure that there will not be another slaughter of Jews somewhere," Lazar said. "There is an upsetting phenomenon of popular nationalistic movements that attract many young people." "The influence of these groups on Russia's future might be very damaging," Lazar said, referring to Alexander Koptsev's attack on eight members of a Moscow synagogue in January. According to his own testimony, he was influenced by computer games and anti-Semitic literature. "I was glad to find out the authorities took this incident very seriously, and unlike before, they understand there is a serious problem," Lazar, a Milan native, said. "In the Soviet era, anti-Semitism was institutionalized," he said. "Today we know for a fact that this is not the government's policy, but still, we'd like to see more action against the extremists. It is very important that Alexander Koptsev be convicted not merely for attacking people, but for inflamed hatred, inter-religious discord and anti-Semitism." During a hearing on February 28, Koptsev denied his guilt, claiming that "since the criminal code of Russia is written by Jews and the Jewish mafia, I refuse to confess." Just three weeks ago 12 major Russian parties signed an "anti-fascist pact" against nationalism, xenophobia and inter-religious hatred. The agreement asserts that such activities are banned by law in Russia, but that they should also be condemned morally. Another 25 registered parties refused to sign the pact, however, claiming that "they would not take part in a public stunt of this kind." Russia has seen an increase in racially motivated crimes in the past several years, including attacks on Jews and dark-skinned foreigners. Twenty-five people have been killed in hate crimes over the past year and more than 200 have been attacked, said Alexander Brod, head of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights.