The head of the RIVERS Yuri Kanner: learning – the key to Jewish happiness

Глава РЕК Юрий Каннер: учиться - залог еврейского счастья

The Russian Jewish Congress, Russia’s largest secular Jewish organization celebrates this year its 20th anniversary. About the jubilee celebrations, the most significant projects, on why the level of anti-Semitism in the country is declining and what is the true “Jewish happiness”, said in an interview with RIA Novosti President of the RIVERS Yuri Kanner. Interviewed By Anton Skripunov.

— We will have a big annual reception. We usually do the eve of Rosh Hashanah-the Jewish New year. At this reception we are waiting for more than a thousand guests from all over Russia and from abroad.

In addition, there are several significant things which we managed to do this year. In September opened ten memorials on the sites of execution of Jews during the Nazi occupation. Total for the entire year will open 15.

Monuments open from Kalmykia to the Pskov region — across all Russia. In General, this is a big job. Not so long ago opened a monument in Novozybkov (Bryansk oblast), as well as in a small farm Neudachin in Stavropol Krai, where he was shot evacuated Jews. All the locals came to the opening. The local administration everywhere participate and support the construction of such monuments. The project is supported by our close partners, without whom we would not be able to raise it to this level.

Is a huge archival work, that the joining of all participants, including local historians. Basically it is either a school teacher or local journalists. Many thanks to them for that.

Why do we believe that the opening of the ten monuments — is it good? Because people look and begin to do for themselves like that. We’re just saying how to do it.

Our project “restoring dignity” is not just that simple to put the stone. We still find the names to knock them out. Transportation of remains is more difficult and more costly issue. It’s very difficult. Many dead Jews is not known. Therefore, the project is large and without the help of many people — patrons, including local residents — it would be very difficult to cope.

– What else RIVERS planned for the end of the year?

At the end of the year — 1-2 November — will host the first international conference on anti-Semitism in Moscow.

In the media there are two points of view. One alarmist, “Oh, the horror! Horrible anti-Semitism in Russia!” Second, let’s say complementary, says that anti-Semitism in Russia is not. Actually the truth is as always in the middle.

Anti-Semitism is everywhere. The question is how we confront him. In this question the important position of the state, which reacted very harshly to the manifestations of anti-Semitism.

Studies show a downward trend in the level of anti-Semitism in Russia. Measured as the moods and manifestations of anti-Semitism. But the task is to check how well we are investigating. How correctly to organize interaction between the parties — NGOs, the state, the media and law enforcement agencies.

The conference will bring together experts from around the world. She called first for the reason that we believe that such measures should be carried out regularly. It is necessary to conduct measurements, to invite foreign experts to present their achievements and listen to their comments.

– What you want to achieve by holding the forum?

— Our task is to institutionalize anti — Semitism, that it became part of the Russian reality. Russia gave the world the word “pogrom”, which was included in all languages. But we can show that the serious work of the state and public organizations is yielding results.

I also want to note that we invite to the conference those cities which in 2018 will host the world Cup. The Symposium will be held a round table on “anti-Semitism at football fans”. The fact that fans can use in the interests of different groups. They are easy to intravascular. In General, we are interested in the fact that the conference materials were useful to the country.

– What is now in Russia, the level of anti-Semitism?

The level of anti — Semitic consciousness we measured the “Levada-center”. They believe that there is a decrease in this indicator. This level also measures the American anti-defamation League, which notes the decline in Russia. The level of anti-Semitism in Russia is the lowest in Eastern Europe according to League.

– What do you see as the reasons for the decrease?

— All understand that to go without pants in Moscow indecent. But not everyone understands that to say this — too embarrassing. But changes occur. We are trying to draw attention to such situations. It is the result of a lot of work which is bearing fruit. This is not happening by itself.

I also think that the rampant anti-Semitism in Europe has a kind of vaccination effect — people in Russia are watching and realize that this is the wrong way and therefore it is better to live in the world.

– During the last election campaign there were cases of using anti-Semitic themes?

Was. Many parties. Even those who are considered liberal parties. But these cases have not been developed.

Was anti-Semitic manifestations during a protest of truck drivers against the system “Platon”. The drawing of the map will always be wishing. But we hope that such cases will be less.

– As you know, you are the Vice-President of the world Jewish Congress (WJC). As they assess the situation with anti-Semitism in Russia?

— I was recently elected to the steering Committee of the world Jewish Congress, consisting of ten people. Members of this body do not represent individual countries but entire regions — Latin America, North America and so on. The Committee presented separately, only Israel and Russia, there is not even the United States. I believe that this recognition of Russia’s success in the development of the Jewish community.

For the world community what is happening in Russia in the field of anti-Semitism is often a white spot. Many are cliches. Therefore, AGE was supported by financial and organizational studies and a conference on combating anti-Semitism. It is very important that what is happening with us it was clear the world’s experts in this matter.

– As a whole has changed the lives of the Russian Jewish community for the past 20 years?

In 20 years the situation has changed dramatically. Built many new synagogues were renovated and put in order transmitted by the government of the synagogue. Construction of the synagogue in Pyatigorsk, restored buildings in Kaliningrad and Arkhangelsk. Appeared or have been referred to the community of the synagogue in Tomsk, Kaluga, Saratov. Recently won a court on the transfer of the synagogue building in the town, it will soon be handed over to the local Jewish community.

But we do not aim to be comprehensive. Our goal is to be a catalyst. If it costs us, we do not intervene. And if you need help, we come and support as possible. If without us, supported symbolically. For example, in Kaluga, where we have invested in the budget, restoring only 10% of the total and gave Kaluga community Torah scroll. We also implemented several projects for the installation of monuments abroad. In particular, implemented the project of installation of a memorial to the red army’s victory over Nazi Germany in the Israeli city of Netanya.

– Abroad it is difficult to erect monuments?

In Israel, for example, is very difficult.


There is no tradition to erect monuments, as Judaism does not encourage it. In Israeli cities, the monuments are very rare. Therefore, at the memorial in Netanya, sponsored by the Moscow sculptor Salavat Shcherbakov, there are sculptures of people. There they are only indicated symbolically.

Israel is very hard to make something organic. But we did it. And proud of it.

– Since you mentioned Jewish education, how can a whole to assess its position in Russia?

— Looking good, I can say that as well. Want bad — bad rate. But let’s look at both aspects.

On the one hand, over the past 20 years. There are, for example, schools, where are taught the basics of Hebrew, the Hebrew history. There are private religious schools.

But there is another side. All education systems in the best case throughout the country covered 10 thousand children of Jewish origin. Although, according to our conservative estimates, in Russia there are 800 thousand people of Jewish origin.

If we are going to talk about what you need to do in the next 20 years, then of course we need to expand and to find forms of how to give knowledge to people of Jewish origin about their people. Now this is a serious problem.

Of course, we will study further this question. Even within schools with a Jewish educational component amount of knowledge about the Jewish people, the culture among high school students leaves much to be desired.

– The Jewish population of the country, according to RIVERS, grows or decays?

— This is difficult to say, because there is no accounting. This is the first.

Second, the very difficult question of who is a Jew. Especially today in Russia, when there is no division on a national basis. There are so many definitions of who is a Jew. A person who follows Judaism? Or somebody with a Jewish mother? Or a person whose grandfather or grandmother of the Jews, as is accepted in Israel? A man who was baptized is a Jew? For example, the state of Israel does not give the right to the repatriation of the Jews who converted to another religion, but Judaism continues to consider him a Jew. Here is very different nuances. It is therefore rather difficult to calculate.

There is a very good, like with Russia, Armenia’s example. There in the late 80-ies were 800 Jews. At the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union went out of 800 people over… what? Eight thousand! And how much is left? 500.

I think that in Russia the same situation. According to the last census we have 150 thousand Jews. And I think that its 10 times more, though that’s a big rating. So I’m taking about the average is 800 thousand.

– There is this concept of “Jewish happiness”. What is its meaning, in your opinion?

Is a playful take on the concept actually. But it reflects the Jewish perception of the world — no matter what happens in life, you still have a good mood and to believe in the future. Deeply observant Jew believes in the coming of the Messiah, and the less — just a bright future.

There is a word “nahes”, which came into Hebrew from Yiddish. Its meaning is something like this: a quiet joy associated mainly with children and grandchildren. When you rejoice the success of children more than his own, when you can be proud of their success.

– What would you wish to Russian Jews on the eve of Rosh Hashanah?

— Have a good year. Keep a good mood. Think what you’re doing. To have “nahes” from children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. To find the time to learn, because this is also the Jewish pledge of happiness and success. I wish to learn everything. More and more often.