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Meeting with Chief Rabbi of Russia Berl Lazar and President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia Alexander Boroda

November 7, 2012, Novo-Ogaryovo, Moscow Region

Mr Lazar and Mr Boroda briefed Vladimir Putin on the upcoming opening of the Russian Jewish Museum of Tolerance in Moscow.

The Russian Jewish Museum of Tolerance is an educational and exhibition centre that brings museum exhibitions, a library, a research centre, conference rooms, and exhibition galleries together under one roof.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends,

I know that you have completed your work on the establishment of the Jewish Museum of Tolerance and Memorial Centre. Since it is located in Russia and is the result of our joint efforts, I suggest we call it the Russian Jewish Museum of Tolerance, which would be more accurate.

I have vivid memories of my visit to Yad Vashem [the Holocaust Memorial] in Jerusalem. It left a truly lasting impression, a very strong impression. The idea behind your museum is similar – we have discussed recreating such a project here in Russia.

People of many nationalities suffered during World War II in the former Soviet Union and Russia, and I remember when we talked about it, your idea was to create a museum and a memorial centre to the Russian and Soviet Jews killed by the Nazis, but also to keep alive the memory of all the peoples in the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation who fell victim to Nazism.

I am very pleased that this event coincides with the visit of the Israeli President to Russia, because he will have an opportunity to see what we have achieved together. It gives me great pleasure to offer my congratulations on this momentous occasion.

Chief Rabbi of Russia Berl Lazar: Thank you very much and thank you for all your help.

Indeed, I think that the significance of this event for the President of Israel will go far beyond the opening of the museum. This is a confirmation of a new era in the life of Russian Jews, and this museum is one of its manifestations.

The story the museum will tell will not be limited to the war years and the most important events and the tragedy of the Jewish people, but we also wanted to tell the story of modern Jews. How do Jews live in Russia today? Their lives are comfortable for the first time in many years, and largely this is thanks to you, as well as the efforts of all peoples of Russia, who truly live and work together today for the nation’s prosperity.

I would like to add that the museum’s most valuable aspect for us is the fact that it is a Centre of Tolerance, because we are aware that this is a major challenge facing Russia and it must be addressed. There is far less anti-Semitism in Russia today than in the past, and perhaps our experience can also be useful to others.

We can see that such issues can be resolved with the active involvement of the state. We want life to become easier for everyone and we hope that this centre will give a real impetus to a new vision of how we can live together and help each other.

Vladimir Putin: That’s right. You said a very important thing, that there is less anti-Semitism in Russia today. Of course, it means that some anti-Semitism remains. It certainly doesn’t exist at the state level but it can still be encountered in everyday life.

For us, for such a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country as Russia, it is vitally important (as I have said many times) to ensure that representatives of every, even the smallest nation, the smallest ethnic group feel and perceive Russia as their homeland.

This is possible only when every person, regardless of religion or ethnicity, feels completely comfortable and secure in the knowledge that his or her rights are protected by society and the legal system. This is essential, and the new museum, which will open tomorrow, will contribute to the attainment of this goal.

There is one more point I would like to highlight. The opening of this museum is to a certain extent our response to Israel and the Israeli Government for the monument they opened to the Red Army and the sacrifices made by our country for the good of the Fatherland and for victory over Nazism in World War II. I think that this is also an essential element that will serve to strengthen relations between our nations at the state level.

President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia Alexander Boroda: Mr President, I would like to add a few words about the museum that we are going to open tomorrow. It is an unusual museum, built with the use of cutting edge technology and the latest advances in science. There is a separate pavilion with video materials and interactive panels.

We believe it will attract many young people, children and families, who will visit the museum and see these technologies at work. This is the first such a museum in Russia and the world. The people who worked on creating it say that nothing like that was ever made before, that there is no such precedent.

At the core of the exposition at the Centre of Tolerance, which will open tomorrow, are also videos and interactive panels, and these materials are used to teach children and young people respect for the elderly, the understanding of problems faced by the disabled, as well as interethnic, religious and racial tolerance in the form that they can relate to.

We hope that this centre becomes firmly established as a popular venue among children, and that Moscow Education Department includes visits to the centre in its programmes. Then we will see concrete results and perhaps this experience can be replicated in other cities. We want the centre to train education professionals to teach a wide range of aspects of tolerance.

Vladimir Putin: This is a very good model. I remember when I first visited the newly opened synagogue (this was about eight years ago), I saw how in addition to the religious part, it also had a gym and a restaurant – it became a genuine cultural and religious centre.

Now the Russian Orthodox Church is about to open a similar centre. I hope very much that the other traditional religions in our country will follow this example because these are excellent leisure centres for the whole family.

People can come with their children and spend a whole day there: they can do sports, visit the temple, the library and so on. This is a very good example that is already being copied. I hope that the museum that will open tomorrow will also be replicated across the country.


November 7, 2012, Novo-Ogaryovo, Moscow Region