New Russian patriarch reaches out to Jews

MOSCOW (JTA) — The newly elected head of the Russian Orthodox Church reached out to Jewish leaders.

Patriarch Kirill, who was elected at a session in Moscow last week and enthroned Sunday, has ties to the Jewish world going back decades.

His predecessor, Patriarch Alexy, traveled to the United States to speak to the Park East synagogue in New York City shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union removed restrictions on the church. Since then, Patriarch Kirill, who served as the church’s interfaith and international liaison, has visited New York multiple times.

The Russian Orthodox Church has a troubled history with Jews in Eastern Europe stemming from centuries of hateful rhetoric and ethnic cleansing. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Jewish and Russian Orthodox leaders have sought closer ties in a country where there are four official religions.

Rabbi Arthur Schneier, the head of New York’s Park East Synagogue and The Appeal of Conscience Foundation, attended Patriarch Kirill’s enthronement and visited his residence on Tuesday, where they discussed the future of interfaith dialogue.

"The Jewish community is in the minority, therefore it’s very important to have a good working relationship with the majority," Schneier told JTA. "You want to judge the stability of a country by how the majority treats the minority."

Leaders of the Russian Jewish community also sent their regards and their desire to work together more closely with the Russian Orthodox Church in the future.

 

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