Russia’s Jewish Organizations Compete for Influence in Occupied Crimea

August 7, 2014
110-year-old Ner-Tomid Synagogue in Simferopol. Photo: novoross.info

Staunton, August 7 – The Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FEOR) which unites the Hasidic Jewry in Russia, and the Russian Jewish Congress (RJC) which represents Reform Judaism, have been competing for influence on the estimated 15,000 Jews in Crimea since the Russian occupation of that Ukrainian territory.

In the new issue of NG-Religii, Andrey Melnikov, its editor, says that after the annexation, the Reform Jews of Crimea preferred to deal with the Russian Jewish Congress, but that FEOR dispatched its own representatives to the peninsula in the hopes of gaining the upper hand.

To that end, FEOR representatives have announced plans to build what Melnikov calls “a large spiritual center” in Simferopol, “similar to those which the organization has already erected in various other cities, including Moscow” and thus serve to inspire and promote the revival of Judaism in Crimea.

Interaction between the two institutions has not been without problems, the NG-Religii editor continues, all the more so given that at least one of the local Lubaviche communities lost its permanent rabbi who returned to the United States shortly before the Moscow-orchestrated referendum on March 16, and FEOR has offered to help, while another Rabbi has refused to take Russian citizenship.

However, Reformist Jewish communities (who are the more numerous in recent years) prefer to get assistance from others. One ongoing project, the reconstruction of the ‘Ner-Tormid’ synagogue, built in 1893, is going forward with the help of the Russian Jewish Congress, the World Union of Progressive Judaism, Israel’s Sokhnut Agency, the American Joint Organization, and the Federal Jewish National-Cultural Autonomy of the Russian Federation.