Russian Jews – the variants of the future
19.10.2009, Communities of Eurasia
Each of us is familiar with the stages: “for what reason am I a Jew?” – in childhood;
“ for what purpose am I a Jew?” – in youth and “how should I behave, if I am a Jew?” – being an adult. Many, having reached advanced age, torture themselves and others with “what am I as a Jew? ". Then followed by: “what is the point of being a Jew?” a good old grumble, senility and a meeting with the Creator (if He is not busy).
Talking about the future of Russian Jews, I would like to precede the attempt with a confession: the present article is subjective. It is written by the Moscow Jewish activist of the 80-s, whose life for the last quarter of the century has been dedicated mostly to the Jewish Diaspora and Israel. The author does not make a claim for the consent of the readers. Each to his taste.
Russian-speaking Jewish communities nowadays consist of those who we call “Russian Jews”- they are the Jews of the USSR. The Jews of the Russian empire were different. They who founded the Jewish communities in the New World, some European countries and Palestinian ishuv (Jewish population Eretz Israel prior to proclaiming the State of Israel). They are our direct ancestors and closest relatives. No more. They did not deal with the Soviet authorities, for them Russian was not a native language, they did not turn into a nation of atheists, they did not win in the Second World War – the Patriotic war. Their Holocaust - for those who experienced it in Western Europe - was different. Their life was different. Their anti-Semitism was different. Their interfaith marriages were different. Different life experience, different realities of every-day life, different psychology, different stereotypes. Not good or not bad, not the best or the worst - different. Russian Jews are somewhat similar to Israelis, somewhat to Jews in Europe, somewhat to Jews in the USA. They are also somewhat different. It bothers the leaders of the western Diaspora and the leaders of Israel, but it is their problem. The disappointment is mutual; different things were also expected from them. Living behind the Iron Curtain, by not dealing with other Jewish communities, it was easy to consider ourselves the people who were deprived and unfortunate, for whom the only vital importance was to reunite with our roots. Now we have reunited. We have found out that myths differ from reality dramatically. The reality has appeared more difficult. But today the history of Russian Jews is a history of success. Are Russian Jews not dissolved into other communities? Do they remain themselves successfully integrating into the world around? Do they stay away from the structures, where an "honourable" role of “human capital" is reserved for them, creating their own structures? That is what they - us - are good at. At least, for those Russian Jews who respect the heritage of their closest ancestors and do not consider their life experience, culture and intellectual baggage suitable only to reject all these for the sake of familiarizing themselves with someone's better values - theoretically better.
After the collapse of the USSR a few million of its inhabitants moved to the West and to Israel, having changed radically the life of those who had moved there in the last decades. In a number of ex soviet republics Jewish life died, in some of them it is evolving under the influence of those who left, and influencing them in turn. Local economic and political realities are affecting a concrete situation. Russia and Ukraine became the centres of universal importance for Russian Jews and will remain so for a long time. Stable Baltic countries, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan (if in the latter Islamists do not become more active) will keep large communities the elite of which will lean on the West, Israel and Moscow equally. Outflow of the Jewish population from the split and economically depressed Moldova, authoritarian Belarus and rigidly clannish Uzbekistan with its Islamic activity will be happening for a long time. That is no reason to speak about the end of Jewish history in these countries, but it is pointless to expect the establishment of financially solvent and politically independent communities there. Turkmenistan, evolving from tyranny to authoritarianism, Tajikistan having gone through the civil war with its political Islamism, unstable-revolutionary Kirghizia and the impoverished Armenia have no prospects for Jewish communal life, apart from external programs of support for the remaining local Jews. The situation in Georgia is more difficult: civil war has split the country, and economic difficulties have caused a significant loss to the Jewish community, but there are chances of its renaissance - after the restoration of the country.
Nowadays it is appropriate to speak about "the circulation of Russian Jews in nature": the preservation of emigration with rising tendencies of repatriation. Freedom of emigration as a new occurrence for Russian Jews has generated a phenomenon of the return of a significant number of emigrants and members of their families who were granted American, Israeli, German, etc. citizenship to Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Baltic countries as managers, businessmen and freelancers. Their total number nowadays is more than a hundred thousand people; the major part of them account for the population in the capital cities and industrial centres of ex-Soviet republics, first of all for Moscow. As a result in the Russian-Jewish social circle there is not only an old "Soviet” civilization code being kept, but also a new one being formed. Today Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, New York and San- Francisco, Berlin and London, Toronto and Melbourne are the same part of a unified territory as Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev or Tashkent, and Russian language as a basis of information base is being enriched with English and Hebrew. This language triad is a communicative basis for a new generation of Russian Jews. In Germany and Austria, German language is being added to it, though in the Russian-English-Hebrew world comprised of many millions of people, its role is limited.
The quantity of Russian Jews, as well as Jews in general is a subject of pointless discussions as nobody anywhere has ever done any serious research into it. The western approach based on the Galakha provisions, or frequency of synagogue visits on various religious dates, is not applicable for the Jews of the former USSR who consider themselves a nation, but not a confessional minority. Popular in the Israeli and international Jewish bureaucracy, the works of Professor S. Della Pergola are based on demographic extrapolation data of the official censuses and have nothing to do with reality. The data presented by him most likely serve as an example of what a professional can end up with in a superficial attempt to tackle a complicated problem beyond his competence, using ineffective scientific means out of contact with the object of research. The key question for Russian Jews and, in the long term, for other non-orthodox Jewish groups as well, is the question of self-identification of children from interfaith marriages and their descendants. Decades of life in the USSR have created a phenomenon of post-assimilation communities in which the origin of a father is not less, and sometimes even more important than mother’s, a surname and a patronymic name transferred through a paternal lineage, play a key role for an external social circle and the bearer himself. As in the Russian-Jewish social sphere Rabbis-gastarbeiters, a few old men and even fewer Baaley Tshuva adhere to the Galakha provisions, assimilation in Russian Jewish social circles first of all means involving non-Jewish members of their families and their inner circle, both secular, and belonging to other faiths, mostly just formally, in Jewish society. It was fully revealed during the Big aliyah and the emigration of the 90-s and the following years.
Bearers of the Russian-Jewish civilisation code in a broad sense of the word are not only Jews and their linear descendants, but also members of their families. These people are consumers of Jewish programs, a natural lobby for Israel, the bridge between the Jewish state and non-Jewish population of the countries of residence, and also a reserve of emigration and aliyah. There are no more problems generated by this phenomenon than problems arising due to spreading of militant anticlericalism, antizionism and post-Zionism in Jewish social circles itself. In the issue on mixed families of Russian Jews, the author is inclined to agree with the deceased Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem-Mendel Schneerson who believed, that non-Jews according to the Galakha will inevitably mingle with Jewish people, and therefore to separate them from those whose destiny they share is inadmissible. We ourselves shall add that it is pointless as well. Jewish history knows not one, but two models of behaviour. Assimilation of Jews takes place when Jews are weak, fractured, in a subordinate situation, they do not have their own state, and with the domination of centrifugal tendencies in Jewish society. The antidote to it stated by the Galakha is the mechanism of self-defence from the epochs of Ezra and Nehemiah, the periods of exile, ghettos, forced conversion and bashings. Assimilation" in Jews" happens when Jews as a people and their state are strong, equal in rights, and affiliation to Jewish people is a sign of status. The present allows us to fulfil this model no less successfully than during the epochs of great kings of Israel - first of all for the Russian Jews who have not been held back by religious dogmas, believing that they are of the same people as the others, and showing successful progress in all fields of activity within the countries they live.
Speaking about Russian-Jewish society, we are deprived of the opportunity to work with exact figures, but the estimation of the number of people interested in Jewish programs in Russia gives figures which vary from one and a half up to three million people who identify themselves with Jewish people in one way or another. The larger part of them (descendants of mixed marriages who are non-Jews according to a census) in Jewish or mixed society behave differently, sometimes radically differently, from those in non-Jewish ones. Protective mechanisms do not die off while they are necessary, and nobody cancelled anti-Semitism yet. An overwhelming number are inhabitants of cities, first of all large ones. More than half of these people live in Moscow and the Moscow region, no less than a quarter in St.Petersburg and the Leningrad region. The general number of Jews and their descendants in other republics of the former USSR is between two thirds and three quarters of Russia. During some years there is a tendency for immigration from these countries to Russia, which significantly increased the number of Jewish communities in the Russian Federation.
About one and a half million Russian Jews and their descendants live in Israel. As many live in the USA and Canada. Some tens of thousands in Australia, New Zealand, Austria and Great Britain. The Russian-Jewish community of the latter, first of all the London one, consists of business and political representatives of post Soviet establishments and members of their families.
The number of Russian Jews in Germany varies from 150 up to 200 thousand, and in the long term could reach a quarter of a million. This community was formed in the 90-s not only due to a high standard of living, significant volume of welfare and economic prospects, but also to a unique position for Europe of the German government based on the history of the Holocaust. Russian Jews traditionally treated Germany as the country against which they won the war, not having any complexes toward it. Germany today is the most liberal democracy in Europe where anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are growing. Assimilation tendencies in this country are strong enough, but a strengthening of Russian-Jewish and Israeli identity could slow them down.
Thus, there are from five to seven million people in the world today who can be reckoned to be Russian Jews. They can be characterised as the following: a high level of education; dominance of European culture and customs in every day life; a small number of children in the family; weak devoutness and suspicious attitude towards orthodoxy; the tolerant attitude to mixed marriages with a high level of national identity; readiness for positive contacts with non-Jews; rejection of ultraliberal theories concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict; a negative attitude to socialist rhetoric and political parties, but positive toward social security programs; denying of ostentatiously extreme forms of behaviour in private life and gender relations; prevalence of " a big family" which includes a few generations; a positive attitude to the army and the state; the practical attitude to institutions of formal democracy.
There is no rule without an exception. Among Russian Jews there are vagabonds and criminals, religious fanatics and fanatic pacifists, family tyrants and chronic alcoholics. The insignificant minority deserves mentioning only in connection with demonstrative emphasis on every marginal case concerning the Russian Jews by the Israeli mass-media during some years, the display of xenophobia which only confirms competitiveness and prospects for Russian Jews in Israel. At the same time, electronic mass-media plays the major role in the formation of Russian-Jewish society. The influence of television and the Internet, the impact of which is especially strong among young people, in the long term will be only increasing, along with Israel being an information super-state for the Jewish world, in comparison with Europe or the USA.
The position of Russian Jews in Israel, opportunity for their influence on the future of the country is not to be under nor overestimated. The Aliyah of the 90-s has rescued Israel, having stopped the process of economic, social and political degradation which is commonly called "levantisation". Israeli industry and medicine, education and science, culture and the military-industrial complex, including Zahal, in many respects today rely on Russian Jews. At the same time, in top echelons of power, first of all political, they are barely represented, in the economic elite they are under political pressure, and Russian parties, members of parliament and members of the government are able only to poorly influence upon the situation. There is a dangerous tendency now which is questioning the future of Israel, the crisis of power which has overtaken all the institutions of the country. Degradation has overtaken legal and parliamentary systems, the government and military leadership, law-enforcement authorities and security system, offices of the prime minister and the president. The results of "the peace process", itnatkut ("delimitation"), the second Lebanese war, leapfrog with parliamentary elections, corruption scandals, and unprecedented opposition of political clans and groups are putting on the agenda the necessity of "breakthrough into the elite” of the population groups which are not presented in it, and which are capable of stabilizing the situation. Russian Israelis are such a group. Its main problem is the problem of leadership. Even the most effective representative of the "old" political elite, A.Liberman, does not have a capable team. Nevertheless, occurrence in the Israeli political establishment of “a new Russian wave", a representative of which in the Knesset is Z.Elkin, and A.Gajdamak in the group of leaders, speaks about the beginning of serious progress in this area.
Despite of significant, and in such countries like Germany, exceptional numbers, Russian Jews are poorly represented in key institutions of local communities, national and international organizations, and practically are absent in the leadership of the country. It sharply contrasts with the appearance on the world scene of such Russian-Jewish representatives who entered the top echelons of the economic elite as R.Abramovich, M.Fridman, G. Khan, L. Blavatnik, V. Vekselberg, V. Kantor, and the groups of high-ranking officials of the Russian Federation and Ukraine. It is necessary to note institutional preservation of the structures forming the current international Jewish policy, crisis of staff in their executive structures, chronic budgetary deficiency and problems in interaction with the Israeli bureaucracy. In interaction with the "old Jewish establishment” in the Russian-Jewish area, only limited success can be reached. It sets an example of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress of A.Mashkevich and the All-Ukranian Jewish congress of V. Rabinovich. The positions corresponding to the level which has been reached at present by the leaders of Russian Jewry, can be formed either on the basis of such national structures uniting political, financial, cultural, academic, religious Russian-Jewish elite and Jewish professionals such as the Russian-Jewish congress, or such new international organizations, like V. Kantor’s Support Fund of the East European communities.
The appearance of new leaders has become the essential factor for Jewish life in the post-Soviet territory. "Raznochintzy of stagnation” [raznochintzy are intellectuals not belonging to the gentry in the XIX century]" and activists of Perestroika have been replaced by the establishment. Senators and members of parliament, billionaires and the Nobel Prize winners, popular journalists and famous artists, ministers and governors have created a new Jewish elite. The consequences of which can be compared to the processes the USA went through after the Second World War. Russia today is the country with leaders of Jews forming a group, resembling the leaders of Jews in the USA by their potential influence on the world arena, though the Jewish elite of Ukraine and Kazakhstan is for now based on the model "an oligarch and his retinue", serving the system of "a vertical of authority is the world establishment ".
The power centre of the modern Jewish world is Israel. The financial ones are the USA and Russia. The intellectual ones are Russia and Israel. The political and religious are Israel and the USA. In modern Jewish Moscow, money is being earned more successfully than in New York, and books are being published more than in Jerusalem. International organizations compete in their struggle for "Russian" trustees with Israeli universities and museums. We are speaking about budgets in the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars - the Russian Jewish congress alone within 1996-2006 raised and distributed in the Russian Federation more than 100 million dollars, not including the sums collected by religious associations and communal structures.
The future of Russian Jews on the post Soviet territory is defined by a number of factors. Thus, the fact that a quarter of the Jewish population of Israel speaks Russian plays a special role in the attention which is given to events there by Russian-speaking mass-media of the former USSR republics. The fact that official circles of these countries show caution toward the Islamic world and policy of the USA in the Middle East, opposition to Islamism, support of freedom of business and emigration, guarantees the future of their Jewish Diaspora.
It is essential for the Jews living in the post-Soviet territory that Islam is a primordial religion of the region. Local Muslims ethnically are not connected with the enemies of Israel, support of the terrorists in the CIS by Islamists prevents them from taking root in the state structures, and the experience of Muslims’ and Jews’ co-existence in the orthodox state has brought a basis of dialogue between them. In the USSR mixed marriages and modernization have formed the intelligenzia that has included both Jews and an educated part of Muslims, having established the connections which survived the collapse of the USSR, and the restoration of contacts between the post Soviet republics and the Islamic world.
The Jewish organizations in the post-Soviet territory do not participate in political struggles, and mass emigration after the collapse of the USSR lowered an acuteness of anti-Semitism on a local level. The integration of the post-Soviet republics into worldwide economic and political union is being facilitated by the presence of natives from their territories in the outside world. As a consequence, anti-Semitism in the post-Soviet republics has ceased to be one of the pillars of state ideology in the states which are both leaning exclusively towards the Western model, and competing with it. The attempts to revive state anti-Semitism in Russia: "the letter of the deputies", "the letter of 500", etc. are an obvious attribute of the death throes of the movement, the representatives of which for the first time in one and half decades have felt the malevolence of the state machine.
Rabbis are the most effective fundraisers of Russia and Ukraine, raising tens of millions of dollars in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev and Dnepropetrovsk. The Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia (FJC) is specially successful with its leader ahead who is a professional lobbyist and an effective manager, the Lubavitcher Chassid Rabbi B.Lazar, and moderately orthodox Congress of Jewish Religious Organizations and Societies in Russia (KEROOR) with Rabbi A. Shayevich. In the post-Soviet territory the Moscow Chassids Rabbi D.Karpov (a Darkey Shalom” community), Rabbi I.Kogan (the synagogue in Bronnoy str.), the Chief Rabbi of Kiev Rabbi Y. Bleich, the Chief Rabbi of Dnepropetrovsk Rabbi Sh. Kamenetsky, the Chief Rabbi of St. Petersburg Rabbi M.-M. Pevzner, and also Misnagid the Chief Rabbi of Moscow P.Goldschmidt are distinguished from approximately 200 other Rabbis. A reformist Z. Kogan holds a spotlight in the Russian establishment. The majority of Rabbis in secular atheistic Russian-Jewish society are foreign orthodox. Their work encompasses the minority of local Jews, their training lags behind a modern level of knowledge on the Jewish history and tradition, and their dependence on the outside orthodox world is strong. At the same time they effectively reconstruct synagogues, which are becoming a symbol of the Jewish renaissance. The main problem of the Russian-Jewish Rabbinate is the absence of local personnel and a system for their training. Nowadays the work of V.Chernin and educational activity of association the "Machanaim" under the supervision of Z.Dashevsky and P.Polonsky can promote the accomplishment of these tasks.
Successful realization of capital projects has become the proof of the Russian Jewry renaissance. In Moscow it is the Memorial synagogue of Holocaust victims in Poklonnaya Gora; the synagogue and the communal centre of FJC in Marjina Roscha; the building of RJC (Russian Jewish Congress), the Grand Choral Synagogue and the community centre on “Gorka”; the synagogue in Bronnaya str. and the "Darkey Shalom" centre in Otradnoe. Outside Moscow they are the Choral synagogues of St. Petersburg, Kazan, Kiev, Dnepropetrovsk, Astana and other cities.
The Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev and Minsk university programs in cooperation with the Israeli colleges and universities, most importantly the Jewish University in Jerusalem, have become the basis of the Russian Jewry intellectual revival. The Russian-speaking system of teaching academic Judaica and Studies of Israel includes hundreds of teachers, thousands of students and post-graduate students. The association "Sefer" under the supervision of Professor V. Mochalova and R. Kaplanov plays a significant integrative role in this system. The higher secular Jewish education in the Russian Federation is included in the state system. The main higher schools of the Russian-speaking Jewish world are S.Dubnov’s Higher humanitarian school of Professor A.Militarev, the Department for Jewish Studies of Moscow State University of Professor A.Kovelman, the Centre for Judaic Studies of St. Petersburg State University of Professor I.Tantlevski, St. Petersburg Institute of Judaica of Professor D.Eljashevich, Kiev Solomon University. The work by Pr. M. Chlenov and Dr. E.Marjanchik (The Academy of Maimonides) and Russian-American Academic Centre for American Studies at RSUH of M. Kupovezky on developing the teaching system of Hebrew plays an important role. In secular society, which is what Russian Jews are, universities are the keepers of a civilisation code; they develop and successfully transfer it to future generations. The higher secular education and the students’ organizations are the main source for professional personnel recruiting, for the future leaders and trustees of the Jewish community.
Effective Russian-speaking Jewish schools are the grammar schools of ORT. Other schools - at synagogues - engage children from families with low income and immigrant families from regions where the Jewish religious tradition has deeper roots than European Ashkenazi. The problem is getting more complicated because of the outflow of a greater part of the means allotted by the Jewish Agency to the Jewish education in the CIS, and to the sphere of informal education which is capital intensive, but ineffective (the project Limud and others). Infant schools are under the patronage of synagogues that limit their use by frameworks of the Galakha. There is an exception, thanks to “Adain Lo” of E.Lvova in St. Petersburg.
Youth projects in Russia and other post Soviet republics remain within the sphere of the interests of Sokhnut, Joint and religious associations. The groups supported by them, including "Hillel", have weak local roots. The movement "Maccabi", including its most active club "Maccabi- Moscow", has reached the peak of its development, which is possible without having their own premises. In general the youth and women organizations in the Russian-speaking Jewish world are weak and have few prospects.
Publishing Jewish books in Russian is highly effective, thanks to the activity of the M.Grinberg publishing house "Gesharim - Bridges of Culture” and also to L.Baltsan, V. Indenbaum, M. Galesnik and some others. Translation of the main block of Jewish heritage into Russian and the maintenance of Russian-speaking Jewish tradition itself play the important role in the preservation and development of Russian Jewry. The problem is the misbalance between religious literature, the release of which is sponsored by many sources, and academic literature, that is more in demand in Russian-speaking youth and intellectual Jewish social circles. The academic Russian-speaking Jewish periodical press is successfully represented by “The Bulletin of the Jewish University", a number of articles being published in the magazines “The Diasporas” and “The East Collection". The achievement worthy of note has been the opening of the library networks in the Diaspora and Israel which are meant for the Russian-speaking reader, among them the Jerusalem Book Club "Gesharim” of M.Grinberg and the Jewish fund of the Eastern Literature Centre in the Russian State Library founded by M. Trifonenko.
Among Russian-language Jewish newspapers, the most prominent are the Russian “The Jewish Word" of B.Gorin and “The Jewish News“of N. Propirny, the Israeli “News” and a number of American titles. Among the magazines it is "Lehaim" of B.Gorin and L.Tokar's "Aleph". In Russian-speaking telecasting, except for Israel and the USA (RTVI, Israel +, or the 9-th channel), there are no channels specialising in Jewish themes, but Jewish and Israeli topics are treated professionally on national TV. The Israeli and American Russian-speaking radio cast counts a significant number of stations. Radio “Aleph” holds a niche of ‘the Jewish radio’ in Russia. The Jewish Internet in Russian is represented by hundreds of resources.
The Jewish Russian-speaking theatre, except for Israeli "Gesher", is experiencing a crisis. Attempts to revive theatre in Yiddish and other ethnic dialects have few chances to succeed. The A.Levenbuk Moscow theatre "Shalom" and drama schools in communities are implementing a number of promising projects. The Jewish theme is represented in a number of Russian films, however the Jewish cinema is the main area of interest for Israeli and American producers.
The historical heritage of Russian Jews includes not only unique library archive funds and museum collections, but also archaeological items of global impact. A number of Jewish artefacts in Transcaucasia, Ukraine and Russia have been traced back to antiquity. The Middle Ages are represented by Khazar monuments, artefacts in Central Asia and Transcaucasia. Buildings and constructions are the treasures of Ashkenazi material culture of modern and contemporary history. Their analogues in Transcaucasia and Central Asia allow one to reconstruct the histories of Gorsky, Georgian and Bukhara Jews. Khasar project of RJC by Prof. V.Petrukhin, Dr. E.Zilivinskaya and Dr. I.Arzhantseva make it possible to explore the territory of Khasar Kaganat. Examination of Khasar fortresses, discovering the city of Itil - the capital of Kaganat in the delta of the Volga river - putting together the collection which was given to the Hermitage and State Historical Museum, the collection which has become a basis of the Khasar sub-department in the Eastern Cultures Institute and at the Religious Studies Department of RSUH (the Russian State University for Humanities), which opened a new page in the history of the Jewish Middle Ages, that is especially important as many artefacts could be lost in the coming years due to the capital requirements of their research projects.
The works of the Jewish Scientific Centre of the Russian Academy of Science run by Prof. V. Shapiro have laid the basis for professional planning of Jewish community development in Russia and Ukraine. At the same time, the sociological survey prepared by him which covers several scores of main city centres of the CIS has been frozen due to the shortage of financing.
The founding of the museum of Holocaust and the Jewish heritage by V. Gusinsky, under the supervision of Dr. O.Sokolova within the Memorial on Poklonnaya Gora, removal of historical information restrictions of the Jews’genocide by fascists and their local allies, and the introduction of the Holocaust theme to school curricula in many respects have solved the problem of the hushed up tragedy of the Holocaust in the USSR. RJC pensions to Righteous gentiles enabled the brave deeds of these people to be recognised. At the same time, many places of mass killings of Jews in the territory of the former USSR have not been developed nor the monuments erected.
The organizations unifying the veteran Jews of the Great Patriotic war, the prisoners of ghettos and concentration camps are active, but for obvious reasons the number of their members is decreasing rapidly. Despite the attempts to change the situation, the representatives of Jews in the former USSR are not part of the directorship of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany ("the Claims Conference"). The promises to change this blatant injustice, given by the administration of Joint the World Jewish Congress, have not been kept.
The literature on the Holocaust is based on the history of Western and Eastern European communities and, except for Babiy Yar, skips over the tragedy of Jews in the former USSR where half of all victims of the Holocaust perished. The events organized by the president of the RJC V.Kantor in Poland, on the anniversary of the Osvenzim liberation and in Ukraine - in memory of the Babiy Yar tragedy - have raised the commemoration of the Holocaust victims to a world level, became the answer to an attempt of the results annulment of the Nuremberg process and audits of the Holocaust. His initiative for the creation of the all-European Museum "Babiy Yars" exhorts to restore historical justice in regards to the Holocaust of Russian Jews.
The problems of accommodation for lonely elderly people in the Russian-speaking Jewish world are a current issue in the post-Soviet territory. It is connected to the absence of the state system of geriatric establishments there, mass Aliya and emigration in which the significant part of the representatives of the older generation have not been included, the collapse of the Soviet system, including a pension system and an infrastructure of social welfare. Nowadays the network of charitable organizations, the pioneer of which in the beginning of the 90-s became American-Israeli ХАМА, and as a result of it, became the system of Welfare Funds Hesed is the most developed in the Jewish world. The problems within the organization are: discrepancies of resources allocated by the western sponsors to problems, growth of pressure from officials of Joints, superfluous expenses of the needs of foreign bureaucracy and absence of direct communication of the organizations with sponsors. Local business covers a considerable part of the costs of the Moscow and St. Petersburg charitable programs, but hardly participates in provincial charity. Outside sources consist of means which are directed to the CIS through Joint, “Claims Conference" and other similar funds. The major part does not reach the end users; conditions of distribution exclude their use as “funds for the coming years". In case the Jewish charitable organizations of the CIS do not manage to optimize budgets, nor to plan their activity for the nearest 10-15 years taking into consideration the necessity of expenses minimization, nor to find local sponsors and sources of financing at a municipal, regional or state level, in 5-7 years the problem of financing will become aggravated.
The main question of stability and continuity of Russian-speaking Jewish programs is the question of means. Universities, schools, sports clubs, synagogues, charity dining rooms just in Russia need the allocation of approximately 50 million US dollars annually for their maintenance. The problems are the absence of tradition and effectively operating institutes of fundraising, the systems of planning and distribution of means at a national level, dissociation of sponsors, a rigid competition of orthodox Rabbis among themselves and with non religious programs, attraction of small and middle business to fund raising. Resolution of the situation will take from 5 to15 years.
Nowadays the provincial Jewish organizations and communities are clients of protection rackets, and the foreign Jewish organizations, the main ones of which are Sokhnut, Joint and ORT. The foreign Jewish organizations have constructed the web infrastructure in the CIS. Many of them have offices, whose functions are just to present reports to sponsors. The exceptions among the religious organizations are the Institute of Judaism studying in the CIS under the supervision of Rabbi A.Shtejnzalts, and the World Council of Progressive Judaism. Among western Jewish structures, operating in the CIS, World ORT is worthy of note, the work of which on forming school education deserves high evaluation and has significant prospects.
The future of the Jewish agencies lies in the preservation of a rate of transformation from “an emigratory bureau" to the bridge between Jews of the Diaspora and Israel. The team of leading experts of well-known Russian-Israeli scientists and artists still enables a resolution of the problems that are arising due to the continuous budgetary crises, caused by changes in the top management of the Jewish Agency. These crises, however, accrue, destroying the system created by Sokhnut during the last decade and a half.
“The sick person” of the western Jewish structures is Joint. Bureaucratization of its "Russian department" under the supervision of Asher Ostrin; the intrigues which caused their professionals to leave the organization; aggressive pressure of non-professionals who substituted the professionals on local communities; the opaque financial policy and a scandalous situation around Jewish real estate (offices and the communal centres); a rule of infringement of obligations toward the local organizations which have become the norm; reduction of the means allocated for programs, along with the preservation of a superfluous level of apparatus expenses - all these make us think about the expediency of this organization in the style accepted by its management and format, in the Russian-speaking world as a whole and in the post-Soviet territory in particular.
Assuming that the basic variants of the future of Russian Jews are connected with what kind of strategy will be used for the development of a Russian-speaking Jewish community by its leaders, upon condition that these leaders will build mechanisms of interaction, allowing them to coordinate their actions, it will attract enough resources and will prevail. The variants are mentioned below.
A. The strategy of flight - a cemetery.
The variant of classical Zionism. It is supported by the Israeli semi-official and the international Jewish bureaucracy. It assumes that the history of Russian Jews is depleted, the present stable condition is intermediate, the Renaissance of the Jewish cultural and communal life is short, anti-Semitism in the countries of the Diaspora will break out with the support of authorities at the right moment for them. The only solution from the point of view of supporters of this strategy is Aliya or emigration to the West; in Israel and in the West it is to dissolve into the local Jewish population.
B. Strategy of defence - a ghetto.
A variant of an orthodox-religious construction. It is supported by a part of the orthodox Rabbinate. It assumes that Jewish life should concentrate around synagogues. Representation in authorities, communications with leadership of the state, with the western establishment and Israel, the control over collecting and distribution of means, the Jewish programs and ethno-confessional life is a prerogative of Rabbis. Refusal of mixed marriages and orthodox giyur as the only way for the non-Galakha Jews to enter Judaism. As a consequence – the restoration of a ghetto institute and selection of Russian Jews, which will be done not by the party organs or Sondercommands, but by Jewish hands themselves. The supporters of this strategy, as a rule, understand how much radical for Russian Jews these steps are, the steps which are natural to the part of the orthodox world which they represent. Formally, they are ready to take them on behalf of tradition and the future of Jewish people. In practice, they are ready to take them in order to complete the task of concentrating means and imperious power into their hands.
C. The Strategy of Advancing - modernization which keeps the roots alive.
Its basis is planning, pluralism in management and distribution of resources. Liberalism in the issue "who a Jew is". Accessibility of the Jewish programs for non-Jews. Support for Jewry as a civilization, the main component of which is the religious tradition. Maintenance of strong relations with Israel and the Jewish Diaspora. Transformation of Russian-speaking Jewry into the leaders of the Jewish world and independence of communities in relationships with authorities in the Diaspora. Intellectualization of communal programs and formation of their professional staff. Cooperation of the secular Jewish majority with the religious minority, without imposing its way of life and neither renouncing its own. Formation and culture as a basis of a civilization code.
Nowadays it is too early to assume which of these strategies will be implemented by Russian Jews. The preferences of the author, however, unconditionally lie with the third choice. Its success means an ascension to a new round of development both of the Diaspora, both western and post-Soviet, and the state of Israel: its communities and country creating a basis for the modern Russian-Jewish world.