Russian Jews choosing emigration to Israel as viable option

More Jews are emigrating to Israel from Russia than they are from Ukraine, seeing it as a desperate option to prevent history from repeating itself, reports an article in the online magazine Common Sense (August 9). According to Israel’s Aliyah and Integration Ministry, in the first half of 2022, 11,906 people emigrated from Ukraine to Israel—while nearly 17,000 from Russia did the same. “While Ukrainian Jewish refugees have various asylum options, Russian Jews are ineligible for refugee status, and Israel is the simplest option,” writes Avital Chizhik Goldschmidt. The factors behind the emigration include protesting the war, fears of economic meltdown, and concerns about revived discrimination, harkening back to the days of the U.S.S.R. In those days, Jews were denied permission to immigrate to Israel, and there is the fear “that this might be their last, best chance to get out.” For two decades, Vladimir Putin cultivated an image of himself as a philosemite, using this portrayal as a way of countering charges that he and other Russian leaders were fascist.

Source: Bloomberg / Getty Images.

But leaders have increasingly made conspiratorial comments about Jews. In May, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted that Hitler had “Jewish blood.” In June, television anchor Vladimir Solovyev took to a Kremlin media organ to warn of Russian-speaking “traitors” who “have some relation to the Jewish people.” Just a few weeks later, the Jewish Agency, an Israeli nonprofit that has helped Jews immigrate to Israel, was informed of its closure, and late last month, Russia’s leading Jewish intellectual dissidents, Yevgenia Albats, Dmitry Aleshkovsky, and Dmitry Bykov, were declared to be foreign agents. “All of this—the purge of the intellectuals, the state-sanctioned insinuations of Jewish treachery, and now the closing of the Jewish Agency—are in keeping with the old Soviet model. The only unanswered question is how much Russian Jews will suffer.”