Russian Orthodox Extremists Re-launch Attack on Jews

Just when it looked like it was dead, the campaign by Russian anti-Semites to use ancient Jewish literature as a means to ban Jewish groups is back in action. The AP reports:

MOSCOW – A group of Russian nationalists has asked a Moscow court to order an investigation of Jewish leaders over the abridged halakhic guide Kitzur Shulhan Arukh, an ancient text that the nationalists say incites hatred, a news agency reported Tuesday.

This comes just weeks after the Forward reported that:

Following an international outcry, state prosecutors in Moscow have abandoned an investigation into claims that a centuries-old code of Jewish law contains racist and anti-Russian material.

Prosecutors had been investigating the Congress of Jewish Religious Communities and Organizations of Russia because of its role in publishing and distributing Russian translations of the Shulchan Aruch, the 16th-century code written by Rabbi Joseph Caro. The organization’s leader, Rabbi Zinovy Kogan, was questioned last week as part of an investigation reportedly launched at the behest of Russian nationalists, who said the code incited ethnic hatred and racism.

(Blogger Jim Davila of Paleojudaica clarifies that the Kitzur Shulhan Arukh is a nineteenth-century compendium of material from the Shulhan Arukh; media reports seem to be using the two document titles interchangeably).

The campaign began back in January, as I covered at the time, and was led by the Orthodox Christian fundamentalist Alexander Krutov of the Rodina (“Motherland”) Party. However, there was another man prominent in that campaign, who is leading the latest attack. Back to the AP:

Interfax quoted one of the authors of the request as saying that 15,000 people have voiced support for banning Jewish religious organizations in Russia. Mikhail Nazarov said that government and media officials who “support the principles” of the text should resign, the agency said. The Basmanny district court declined to comment or confirm that it had received the request.

As reported in Izvestia.ru in June (scroll down), Nazarov hoped the first legal challenge would lead to

“recognition that Judaism inspires in those Jews trained in this religion hatred for all other peoples.” Mikhail Nazarov considers a legislative prohibition for Jews to participate in the governmental life of the country to be an ideal scenario. He insists that his philosophy is not directed against the Jewish people: “Every Jew can become a member of society with full rights, if he converts to another faith.” Mikhail Nazarov noted that the Cheremushkin prosecutor’s office in Moscow began an investigation of his book, “Russia’s Secret,” for which he was forced to give testimony. “‘Russia’s Secret’ cannot be antisemitic since it is sold in the patriarchal system,” Mikhail Nazarov noted, and he added that he intends to file suit in court against those who call him “an ideologue of neonazism and antisemitism.” “We are Orthodox people, and on the basis of Orthodox teaching we strive to defend Russia from destructive forces,” he explained.

Anyone facing Nazarov in a libel suit should not worry too much. Back in May the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union noted that:

The Moscow Bureau on Human Rights and the Holocaust Foundation wrote to Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov urging him to open a criminal case of hate-speech charges against Mikhail Nazarov, an anti-Semitic writer who recently accused Jews of killing five children in Krasnoyarsk.

Last week, the charred remains of five boys who went missing in April were found in a drainage system in the Siberian city. Police said the boys apparently had run away from home. In an article posted on several radical nationalist Web sites, Nazarov suggested that the local Jewish community had kidnapped the boys, aged nine to 11, pointing out that they had gone missing on the eve of Passover.

Plus here’s a taste of Nazarov’s rhetoric, taken from a far-right website (which I’ve declined to link):

Well, the President Putin visits “holy Judaic places” as often as Orthodox monasteries. He takes part in the Talmudic rituals and congratulates the Jews on their celebrations. And a large number of Orthodox bishops sit with the Antichrist’s servants in presidium of some congresses. Probably, it is necessary to achieve daily penitence to Jews in TV show that is broadcast from the Christ the Savior’s Cathedral…

But St. John Chrysostom banished from the Church the “evil custom” to participate in the Judaic holidays and he prohibited even to “watch them”. He wrote about the synagogue quoting the famous Christ’s words from the Gospel: “When the God leaves a place, it will be a dwelling of demons…Who says it? The Son of the God…What more reliable evidence can be cited? So, if they do not know the Father, they crucified the Son and rejected the help of the Holy Spirit who cannot safely tell that place (synagogue) is a dwelling of demons? The God is not worshiped there, it is a place of idolatry” (St. John Chrysostom, Works, Saint-Petersburg 1898)

Back in December the UCJFSU also carried a UPI report discussing the Russian far right:

On November 22, a group of Russian nationalists – led by sculptor V.M. Klychkov and including ideologist Mikhail Nazarov, singer Aleksandr Shamkhmatov, and “Russkiy vestnik” editor Aleksei Senin, among others — met in Moscow to make arrangements for restoring the tsarist-era Union of the Russian People at a congress to be held next spring.

In an appeal to Russians adopted at the meeting, the organizers explicitly stated that the Union will be “the successor” of the group that was created in November 1905 to defend Tsar Nicholas II and the Orthodox Church against all those including revolutionaries, liberals, and Jews whom its leaders, Aleksandr Dubrovin and Nikolai Markov, identified as enemies.

The new organization will be directed, the appeal said, to unifying the “state-forming Russian people” in order to build “a strong and effective state” based on the principles of Russian Orthodoxy — although the appeal added that organizers were not “rejecting the possibilities of cooperation with representatives of other confessions.”

It looks like this “Union” is the driving force in the campaign against Russian Jews. And what is it exactly that these Orthodox stalwarts believe should be banned? Back to Izvestiva:

Quotations from “Kitzur Shulchan Aruch” that upset the author of the statement to the prosecutor’s office, Mikhail Nazarov, with comments by Rabbi Pinkhas Goldshmidt

1. “The figure of two crossed sticks, which they venerate, is forbidden of us.” In Nazarov’s opinion, Christians are considered to be idolaters. According to Goldshmidt, in the “Orach Chaim” section of “Shulchan Aruch” it is said that “if a non-Jew believes in a single G-d and he also believers in other higher powers, we do not consider him as an idolater.” Christians (akums) are not considered idolaters.

2. “The prohibition to teach a trade to non-Jews”  Goldshmidt maintains that the phrase is distorted; it is prohibited to teach idolaters (cf. point 1). In addition, this prescription was included in the law as a warning for Jews against performing actions that, in the event of an unfortunate outcome, could lead to the accusation of ritual murder. The same consideration applies when it says “a Jewish woman should not help a non-Jewish woman in childbirth” if she is not a professional midwife.

3. “It is forbidden to betray a Jew into the hands of a non-Jew, whether it is a matter of the Jew’s life or his property; and it is irrelevant whether this is done by some kind of action or by words; and it is forbidden to inform on him or to reveal the places where his property is hidden.” Nazarov notes that such conduct is prescribed for Jews in court and in an investigation. Goldshmidt points out that Jewish law prescribes the right not to testify against relatives. “Shulchan Aruch” also establishes a prohibition on informing: “When it is established that someone has betrayed a Jew or his money three times to an akum [non-Jew], then it is necessary to find the ways and means for removing him from the world.”

4. “It is a good thing to kill a Jewish freethinker, that is, someone who performs the worship of akums.” According to Goldshmidt, this law pertains only to the time before the end of the period of the first temple, which was destroyed 2,500 years ago. (tr. by PDS, posted 23 June 2005)

Whether or not Rabbi Pinkhas Goldshmidt accurately interprets the intentions of the authors, this is what the text means for Russian Jews today.

(There is also a Russian monarchist historian named Mikhail Nazarov associated with the World Public Forum Dialogue of Civilizations. I think this is a different person, though)

(Tipped from Paleojudaica)

One Response

  1. I posted this story at Metafilter.com.

    http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/43755

    I think your work deserves more notice – Bruce

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