Ukraine war: Thousands of Jews quit Russia amid fears of persecution

Russia is facing the mass migration abroad of large numbers of its Jewish population, with at least one in eight leaving the country since its war with Ukraine began.

The Jewish Agency helps Jews around the world move to Israel. It says an astonishing 20,500 of Russia’s estimated total of 165,000 Jews have gone since March.

Thousands more have moved to other countries.

Undoubtedly the spectre of historical Jewish persecution has loomed large in the minds of many of those who are a part of this sudden mass migration and those still trying to get out of Russia.

In Moscow, there had been a huge effort to develop the Jewish community since the fall of Communism. Among those at the forefront was Pinchas Goldschmidt, the city’s chief rabbi since 1993.

“After 24 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,” he says.

The distress in his voice at having to contemplate leaving his home and country is all too clear, and he talks of his fears of not being able to find work abroad and not having huge amounts of savings.

But as Professor Shternshis suggested, Alexander’s anxiety about his family’s future in Russia goes beyond just opposing the war.

“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,” he says.

Alexander says he only knows two other Jewish families and that the community has not been a big part of his life.

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