jews flee russia ukraine war in large numbers to israel
The ongoing Russia Ukraine war, which began in February 2022, has resulted in a massive exodus of Jews from the region. The emigration intensified when the Wagner Group took over Russian military installation and attempted a coup two months ago.
The Eastern-European Jews feared they would be used as scapegoats as the mercenary group’s boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, who died in a plane crash on August 23, was believed to be a Jew. This gave rise to a new wave of uncertainty in Russia’s Jewish community. In early July, Pinchas Goldschmidt, former chief rabbi of Moscow, who fled to Israel in March 2022, urged Russian Jews to leave the country after he was labeled a “foreign agent” by the Kremlin.
According to Jewish Agency, a quasi-governmental organization, around 64,633 Russian-Jews have moved to Israel in the past 17 months. Over 43,000 Jews from Russia and over 15,000 from Ukraine moved to Israel in 2022. London-based Jewish Policy Research says if this trend continues, Russia will lose half its Jewish population in seven years. It believes about 145,000 Jews and an equal number of part-Jews, who have at least one Jewish parent, live in Russia.
Tanya Lvova, deputy director of the Eva Jewish Welfare and Community Center in St. Petersburg, said most of the center’s 2,000 Jewish beneficiaries are elderly and are uninterested in leaving the country. She highlighted that the war in Ukraine has not, to date, triggered threats against the Jewish community.
“I don’t see a rise in anti-Semitism in my surroundings. The Russian state does not support anti-Semitism, and we hope it stays that way. We were worried a year ago that threats against Russian Jews might happen, but they didn’t.” Lvova touted Russia as one of the least anti-Semitic countries in the last decade. She said that although anti-Jewish sentiment has grown in the US and France, it is not fashionable in Russia.
Howard Flower, director of Jewish immigration to Israel for the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, expects the number of newcomers from all parts of Russia to increase this year. He said Jewish immigration to Israel from Russia and the former Soviet republics is quite high now because of uncertainty.