MOSCOW (JTA) — A senior Russian rabbi warned of grave danger to Jews if Russian President Vladimir Putin is swept from power.
Alexander Boroda, head of the Chabad-affiliated Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, made the warning Friday during a talk at Moscow’s ninth annual Jewish learning event organized by Limmud FSU.
“The Jews of Russia must realize the dangers inherent in the possible collapse of the Putin government, understand the rules of the game and be aware of the limitations,” Boroda said at a session, according to a translation provided by Limmud FSU.
The Moscow conference, which drew 1,400 participants, opened Friday at the state-owned Klyasma resort just outside the Russian capital.
Boroda’s federation is among several Russian Jewish organizations that credit Putin for facilitating efforts to reconsolidate Russia’s Jewish community of 350,000 after decades of communist repression.
Under Putin, dozens of synagogues have been renovated with government support and a massive Jewish museum was opened in Moscow with state funding.
“In Russia, there is virtually unlimited freedom of religion and the Jewish community must ensure this situation continues,” Boroda said. “The support for religious institutions is wider than in the United States and defense of Jews against manifestations of anti-Semitism is greater than in other European countries. We do not have the privilege of losing what we have achieved and the support of the government for the community.”
All Russian Jews, especially those considering action against the Putin administration, Boroda said, “must understand the grave dangers that they take upon themselves and the potential consequences.”
Such endorsements of Putin by Jewish leaders have exposed them to criticism by liberal Jews and Jews in Ukraine, who oppose Putin’s crackdown on civil liberties and rivals, annexation of Ukrainian land and perceived nationalism.
Viktoria Mochilova, a Limmud FSU participant and social activist, dismissed Boroda’s message as one-sided and unrepresentative. While appreciative of government support for Jews, they, “similar to other Russian citizens, [desire] to improve the situation of the state and to strive to make it more democratic and honest,” she said.