Russian court orders Jewish non-profit dissolved

KAZAN, Russia (JTA) — A Russian court dissolved a Jewish community association, in a move that critics said was part of a larger crackdown on grassroots organizations but that others said was procedural.

The Cherepovets City Court on Aug. 25 scrapped the association known as The Jewish Community of Cherepovets from the register of nonprofit organizations citing repeated failures to file the financial activity reports required by law of such organizations, the Interfax news agency reported.

The ruling in Cherepovets, which is located 250 miles north of Moscow, came amid a crackdown in Russia on nongovernmental organizations with foreign ties, as per a law adopted by the Russian parliament in 2012 that requires NGOs to register as “foreign agents” with the Ministry of Justice if they engage in “political activity” and receive foreign funding.

Critics of this legislation, under which at least one Jewish organization has been flagged as a foreign agent, said it is designed to isolate opposition groups.

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But the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, the Chabad-affiliated body responsible for dozens of the country’s Jewish congregations, said in a statement Thursday that the dissolution was “a technical issue” as the Jewish association in Cherepovets, which was founded in 2005, had for a while existed only on paper.

“Community activities became more and more nominal. The reason for the closure was that the community ceased to provide reports on their activities,” said Boruch Gorin, a senior aide to Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar.

Gorin’s statement to the news website came one day after Paul Goble, a well-known Russian affairs analyst and longtime critic of Russia, called the dissolution “the most disturbing indication yet that Kremlin-sponsored xenophobia.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is often accused of limiting civil liberties and violating human rights, is widely credited with facilitating an unprecedented growth among Russian Jewish communities.

Under Putin, who has written about his respect for the Jewish faith and the positive role that Jews have had on him while he was growing up in St. Petersburg, Russian Jewish communities – and especially ones affiliated with Chabad – have received land and other amenities from the government.    

In 2014, he said he had annexed Crimea from Ukraine to protect minorities from pro-fascist anti-Semites, whom he said were behind the revolution that ousted that year his ally in Ukraine, former president Viktor Yanukovych.

Subsequently, Russian and Ukrainian officials, as well as propagandists, have exchanged accusations in media over alleged anti-Semitism.

In both countries, several dozen anti-Semitic incidents are reported annually – a fraction of the number recorded in Western European countries, including France and the United Kingdom.