2019-08-08 14:31:00

Russian Jewish community leader calls news of Vilnius Synagogue closure frightening

Moscow, August 8, Interfax - President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia Alexander Boroda has said he is shocked by the news that Jewish leaders in Lithuania are temporarily closing the Vilnius Synagogue for security reasons.

"It pains us to hear about the closure of the Jewish community [headquarters] in Lithuania. Today's world should be free from any manifestations of xenophobia and nationalism. The closure of the community [headquarters] and the synagogue is truly frightening news, because only systemic negative events and the permanent atmosphere of hatred in society could lead to it," Boroda told Interfax.

Hopefully, "this serious and desperate step" taken by the Jewish community will draw an outcry both from the state authorities and human rights organizations of Lithuania, he said.

"In our opinion, it's also important for other European countries, where the level of anti-Semitism only continues to grow every year, to pay attention to this situation," he said.

Russian Jews very well know from the example of their grandparents "how devastating and painful life may become when one renounces their fate and self-identification," he said.

"Thank God, today we don't have to conceal our Jewish origin and can safeguard our traditions just as representatives of other ethnicities and faiths safeguard theirs, because cultural diversity is the source of enormous opportunities for the development of any society. People around the world realize it," he said.

Even though today it is fashionable to speak about human rights and tolerance toward everything and everyone, xenophobic sentiments are increasing in European society, Boroda said.

"Perhaps, besides words, there should also be concrete legislative steps that would prevent even the slightest outbursts along national or religious lines, but, beyond any doubt, it is also important to remember the lessons of history," he said.

In recent years, Russia's Jewish community has repeatedly protested against nationalist marches in Lithuania with photos of people recognized as war criminals.

"The witnesses of World War II are still alive, but the names of Nazi collaborators have been rehabilitated for a long time now. Murderers have been called heroes. Such actions only serve to further reinforce the wrong and warped ideas of what is good and what is evil in many people's minds," Boroda said.