Boris Yeltsin, the former Russian president whose years in power saw a mass emigration of Jews and the renaissance of Jewish life in the former Soviet Union, died at age 76. While it was Yeltsin’s predecessor, Mikhail Gorbachev, who opened the gates for Soviet Jews and paved the way for the fall of the Iron Curtain, Yeltsin continued to open up the country.Yeltsin spoke out against anti-Semitism and generally was seen as friendly to the Jewish community. Under Yeltsin, Russia’s relations with Israel improved and Russia became active in the Middle East peace process.”Yeltsin was an important figure” for the Jewish community, said Mark Levin, executive director of NCSJ, a group that works on behalf of Jews in the former Soviet Union..”His opening of the country allowed for the development of Jewish communities throughout Russia. His willingness to create a more open, democratic country certainly had an impact on the Jewish community.”
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