Russia orders Jewish Agency to cease operations, stops Jews from immigrating to Israel

The Russian Justice Ministry on Thursday requested the liquidation of the Jewish Agency which facilitates immigration to Israel. With the closure of the Jewish Agency, the remaining Russian Jews will not be permitted to leave the country, effectively making hostages out of Russia’s approximately 500,000 Jews.

According to the Jerusalem Post, there will be a court discussion on the case next week, but until then, the agency is trying to fight its case.

The Jewish Agency rescued approximately one million Jews from the former Soviet Union in the 20th century. Approximately 16,000 Jews have immigrated to Israel since Russia invaded Ukraine.

The move against the largest Jewish non-profit organization in the world followed criticism of Putin’s war in Ukraine, by then Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who accused Russia in April of committing war crimes.

Since then, Lapid has been named Israel’s interim Prime Minister pending the upcoming election.

“The Jewish community in Russia is deeply connected with Israel,” he said in a statement. “Its importance arises in every diplomatic discussion with the Russian leadership. We will continue to act through diplomatic channels so that the Jewish Agency’s important activity will not cease.”

A delegation with representatives from Lapid’s office is scheduled to visit Russia next week.

Israel has not sent military aid to Ukraine, only humanitarian aid. However, the strong relations the Jewish state enjoyed with Moscow began to deteriorate in May after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov falsely claimed Hitler had Jewish ancestry.

According to The Post, the Russian Justice Ministry sent a letter to the Jewish Agency earlier this month with a list of alleged violations of the law and their consequences. Russia accused the Jewish Agency of illegally collecting information about Russian citizens. It also recently expanded its definition of a foreign agent to include anyone who receives support from abroad and engages in actions that the authorities determine are against Russia’s national interest.

The new classification could apply to the Jewish Agency and other organizations operating in Russia.

According to The Post, Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai said on Thursday, “Russian Jews will not be held hostage by the war in Ukraine. The attempt to punish the Jewish Agency for Israel’s position on the war is pathetic and insulting. The Jews of Russia will not be detached from the historical and emotional connection to the State of Israel.”

Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata said, “The immigration of Jews to Israel is a basic right that every Jew in the world has. The Jewish Agency’s activities take place all over Europe and in the rest of the continents, as well as in Russia, in full coordination with local authorities. Israeli diplomats have made efforts to clarify the issue and regulate the activities in coordination.”

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