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Russia ‘not responding adequately’ to anti-Semitism, says Moscow rabbi

NEW YORK, August 11 (JTA) — Russia is not “responding adequately to political and violent anti-Semitism,” said the chief rabbi of Moscow. Noting a recent spate of anti-Semitic acts, including the July 12 knifing of a prominent member of the Moscow Jewish community, Pinchas Goldschmidt told a gathering of American Jewish leaders here that neither the Moscow city government nor the country’s federal government is fulfilling its promises to provide security for Jewish sites in Russia. At a news conference at Anti-Defamation League headquarters in New York, Goldschmidt also formally announced the creation of a joint institute to monitor anti-Semitism in Russia. The Russian Jewish Congress, an umbrella organization, will work together with the ADL, the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and other groups to study Russian public attitudes toward Jews. A poll of these attitudes is already under way, according to the national director of the ADL, Abraham Foxman. He said the American and Russian groups will work “jointly to determine the best steps to expose” the extent of Russian anti-Semitism and will produce educational publications to distribute to the Russian public. Goldschmidt said Russian Jews “are apprehensive, and some people are worried about who is standing behind” the recent attacks, explaining that the government’s inaction is breeding suspicion that it may not want to find the perpetrators. Three bombings that occurred in Russia during the past four months remain unsolved. The attacker in the July 12 incident was apprehended by private security officers hired by the Jewish community, Goldschmidt said. “Without the provision of local Jewish business people providing their own security,” Goldschmidt said, most Jewish property would be “not secured at all.” Contrasting the recent attacks in Russia to Tuesday’s shootings at a Jewish community center near Los Angeles, Goldschmidt pointed out that American political figures and law enforcement officials responded “right away.” During a visit to Washington last month, then-prime minister Sergei Stepashin met with the heads of American Jewish organizations and vowed to “eradicate” anti-Semitism. In introducing Goldschmidt, Ronald Lauder, the chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said that what Russian leaders “say here and what they say in Russia are two different things. What they say in Russia is — they don’t say anything” about anti-Semitism. Stepashin was fired suddenly last week and replaced by a former internal security chief, Vladimir Putin. Goldschmidt expressed hope that the new Cabinet appointed by President Boris Yeltsin would implement a crackdown on anti-Semitism as one of its first priorities. “There is not enough local pressure or national pressure,” he said, adding that “the Jewish community is only coming into being now” in Russia.
He said he was looking forward to a visit from American Jewish leaders to lend support to the cause. Asked if the recent change in government gave him any reason to be hopeful that the Russian government would put more emphasis on Jewish security, Goldschmidt said, “As Jews, we always have to be optimistic.”