For the second time in October 2018, the Russian Jewish Congress, with the support of the Moscow Government, the World Jewish Congress, the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, Genesis Philanthropy Group and Sberbank of Russia, is holding an International Conference on combating anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia. What for? We live here. And we want to be confident in the future of our people here. Why? Because this is where we're going to live, and we wish to have certainty in the future of our people here.
However, knowing the truth is important not only to us. The attitude towards Jews, the level of anti-semitism — the most ancient and persistent type of xenophobia — is an important health indicator for society as a whole. In the recent words of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, addressing the European Parliament, “the hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews”. Our role is that of a canary in a coal mine: we feel it before anyone else.
Nonetheless, feelings can be misleading. The RJC, conscious of its responsibility for the Russian Jews, has decided to rely on an unbiased scientific approach. For several years we've been engaged, along with the anti-fascist “SOVA” Center for Information and Analysis, in daily monitoring of anti-semitic incidents. We have the statistics. We needed a comprehensive analysis of the present situation and the current trends. To that effect, the RJC has commissioned an extensive and comprehensive research from the “Levada Center”, conducted in the years 2015-2016. (The previous evaluation of anti-semitism in Russia took place in 1997).
The findings of that research are quite dramatic. The common wisdom, both in our public opinion and abroad, is that Russia is a country with deep-rooted and widespread anti-semitism. Historical evidence of that is abundant. However, the “Levada Center” research of today's Russia refutes that persistent stereotype (in consistency with the operational statistics data). Presently, the level of anti-semitism in our country is at an all-time low.
We could feel relieved and content ourselves with that, but we need more. We perceive the research findings not as a conclusion, but as vast source material for analysis, reflection and evaluation. With that in mind, we convene the “Protecting the Future” conference, where we've invited public and political figures and world-class experts from Russia, Israel, the United States and the European Union. With a collaborative effort, we hope to understand the developments, foresee the coming events and identify the trends that shape the processes.
As stated earlier, this is not a purely Jewish issue, and not even an issue of Russia as a whole. It is a universal issue, because we come to this world not to laugh, not to weep, but to understand. And God willing, we will come closer to understanding during the conference.
Yuri Kanner, President of the Russian Jewish Congress