Over one in eight Jewish Russians have emigrated since the country invaded Ukraine, according to the Jewish Agency, which facilitates Jewish immigration to Israel.
The sizeable migration has elicited a crackdown by the Russian Government on the Jewish Agency reminiscent to some of antisemitic persecution of Jews by the Soviet Union and restrictions on Jewish immigration.
The Jewish Agency estimates that 20,500 Russian Jews of an estimated total of 165,000 have moved to Israel, with thousands more leaving for other countries.
Even the Chief Rabbi of Moscow, Pinchas Goldschmidt, left the country two weeks after the invation.
Anna Shternshis, Professor of Yiddish studies at Toronto University and a specialist in Russian-Jewish history who was herself born and raised in Russia, told the BBC: “I have been thinking quite a bit about why there is such a rush to go because we are not seeing a huge surge of antiseemitism. But then putting my historian hat on, I see that every time something happens in Russia, some upheaval, some change, Jews are always in danger.” Referencing over a century of recent Russian antisemitism, she said that “Not everyone acts on it, but every Jew in Russia today is thinking about this.”
One Russian Jew also recounted in dismay: “After 24th February, my family realised we were absolutely against this war but we did not know how we could protest. One of my children is the age of military service, so that is another reason we want to go. The authorities in Russia are unpredictable and they have a bad tendency; Jews become one of their propaganda targets, we are traditionally a good way to find internal enemies. My great-grandparents and grandparents suffered from those times.”
For those Russian Jews wishing to leave in anticipation of a possible rise in antisemitism, the shuttering of the Jewish Agency in Russia is alarming. The same individual said: “All of a sudden we see that on the news, and we wonder what is next? We feel very unsafe and we think could we lose our jobs, or go to jail. Things have become very scary.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism reports on news and incidents relating to antisemitism worldwide.