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Russian rabbis call on Europe’s Jews to help ease sanctions

November 12, 2015, 16:40 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© Denis Vyshinskiy/TASS

MOSCOW, November 12. /TASS/. Russian rabbis are calling on European Jewish communities to help ease or lift sanctions against Russia. Many experts think that this initiative would help soften tensions between Russia and the West.

Moscow’s deputy chief rabbi Shimon Levin called on his colleagues to help ease sanctions against Moscow, speaking at a conference of European rabbis.

"Due to balanced state policy, anti-Semitism in Russia is at a record low," Levin told the conference, bringing together over 700 rabbis.

"Sanctions are harmful for Russia’s Jewish community and have significantly worsened its economic situation," he said, adding that European rabbis could influence leaders of their countries so that they lifted or softened anti-Russia sanctions.

Russia’s Jewish leaders have already touched upon the problem of sanctions on the international scene. In April, Moscow’s chief rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt called for the help of Pope Francis in normalising relations between Russia and the West.

"European rabbis took this proposal into consideration," Shimon Levin told TASS on Thursday. "Some rabbis did not perceive this call well but the overwhelming majority were positive about it. I explained to them that sanctions were very bad for Russia’s Jewish community, and European communities should help each other."

He said the conference was attended by chief rabbis from many European countries, including the United Kingdom, France and Italy.

"There is such a term as soft diplomacy," he said. "Obviously, a rabbi is not a foreign ministry official but as these countries have large and strong Jewish communities we are hoping for some results."

"The Jewish community and Judaism's leaders are influential enough to seek the partial lifting of sanctions or easing them in some economic sectors for a number of companies and banks," Kommersant daily quoted Roman Lunkin, president of the Guild of Religion and Law Experts, as saying.

Igor Zagarin, an assistant professor at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), told TASS that "Jewish communities had major weight in Europe and could somehow influence the attitude to Russia in their countries". Israel, currently Russia’s ally in a number of spheres, could also be helpful, he added.

Veronika Kravchuk, also a RANEPA assistant professor, said there was some hope that this initiative would help improve Russia-EU ties. "When the bombings of Belgrade began, the pontiff was also speaking against it, but with no result," she said. "But given the influence of Jewish communities in Europe, their position could have constructive influence on relations between Russia and the West as calls of religious leaders have certain international impact."

Alexei Makarkin, first vice president of the Center of Political Technologies, said this initiative of Russian rabbis would hardly influence the situation. "The West is secular now," Makarkin told TASS. "This regards both Christianity and Judaism. Western secular politicians take these or those decisions with little orientation to confessional leaders."

If Israel’s existence was at stake, serious mechanisms were being turned on, the experts said, adding that the United States had a strong Israeli lobby defending the strategic alliance between Washington and Tel Aviv.

"But this is a different issue. In this case, we are talking about Judaism's spiritual leaders," he said.

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