(JTA) — Following the dissemination of an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory by a politician from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s party, a chief rabbi of Russia called on the government to stamp out hate speech against Jews.
Rabbi Berel Lazar’s appeal on Friday to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was in reaction to the April 10 statement on Jews by Vladislav Vikhorev, a candidate for Putin’s United Russia who is running to be elected a state lawmaker in the Legislative Assembly of Chelyabinsk Oblast, a federal region located nearly 1,000 miles away from Moscow.
During a debate in the city of Chelyabinsk, Vikhorev said that Jews in the 1990s were behind a “Jewish revolution that put Russian sovereignty itself on the brink of extinction,” which he said was “a well-planned, well designed program of destruction of national culture, national education, national production and the national financial system,” according to the news website Apostroph.
“The Russian Jewish community is shocked by an anti-Semitic escapade by a candidate in the United Russia primaries,” Lazar wrote in an open letter to Medvedev that was released Friday. He condemned the local election committee’s decision to merely warn Vikhorev, a 67-yerar-old pensioner, instead of scrapping his candidacy.
Russian Jews are “even more astounded” by the committee’s decision than by Vikhorev’s words, Lazar said.
Yuri Kanner, president of the Russian Jewish Congress, called for the initiation of a criminal investigation for hate speech against Vikhorev, the news website Lanta reported.
Lazar enjoys good relations with Putin, whom he credits with curbing anti-Semitic speech in media and in government, that Lazar says was more common before Putin came into power.
Russia has approximately 250,000 Jews. On Thursday, more than 2,000 of them convened in Moscow for the 10th annual Limmud FSU Jewish learning conference. The record-setting attendance made Limmud FSU Moscow the second largest Limmud conference in the world, second only to Britain’s gathering of 2,600 people.
Lazar spoke at the opening ceremony of Limmud Moscow, delivering the keynote address. He last attended that Limmud conference in 2007.