A chief rabbi of Russia said that nationalism and compulsory Christian education are major problems in the country.
Berel Lazar, one of two chief rabbis in Russia, in an interview with the German newspaper Deutsche Welle said he believes that nationalist groups – skinheads, anti-immigration groups, far-right ideologues – were not as numerous as some estimate, but that such groups would grow in force if no one fights against them.
“The consequences can be devastating,” said Lazar, the head of the Chabad-led Federation of Jewish Communities. “With these forces we first get aggressive slogans, then actions, then murder.”
He said the authorities understand the nature of these groups but tend to marginalize them.
Lazar also protested the release of a textbook by the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi that educates students about the country’s roots in Russian Orthodox Christian culture.
“This is a serious problem,” he said. “There shouldn’t be a preference for one religion by the government.”
Forcing students in Russian schools to study Orthodoxy would make Jews and other religions feel like second-class citizens, he said, and that would create widespread antipathy and injustice.