Russia Demands Closure of Jewish Agency Due to Illegal Collection of Citizens' Data

Another positive outcome of the special operation?

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Originally appeared at: Radio Liberty

Russia's Justice Ministry has demanded the closure of the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Sohnut, which processes the immigration of Jews to Israel.

Moscow’s Basmanny district court said on July 21 that it will start a hearing on the ministry's request on July 28. According to the court, the ministry's request was based on alleged violations of unspecified Russian laws. The Jerusalem Post cited a top Israeli diplomatic official as saying that the ministry’s request is based on allegations that Sohnut "illegally collected info about Russian citizens."

Following the court's statement, Israel said it would send a delegation to Russia next week "to ensure the continuation of the Jewish Agency's activity in Russia," according to a statement from Prime Minister Yair Lapid's office. The delegation was to include representatives of the prime minister's office as well as the foreign, justice, and absorption ministries, the statement said.

"The Jewish community in Russia is deeply connected with Israel. Its importance arises in every diplomatic discussion with the Russian leadership," Lapid said in the statement. "We will continue to act through diplomatic channels so that the Jewish Agency's important activity will not cease."

Russian authorities earlier this month sent an official notice to Sohnut's office in Moscow demanding its closure. Sohnut's branch in Russia has been functioning since 1989. The agency established in 1929 helps Jews from other countries settle in Israel.

Last month, the chief rabbi of Moscow, Pinchas Goldschmidt, left Russia after he refused a request from state officials to publicly support Moscow's special operation in Ukraine. Israel's Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai said on July 21 that “Russian Jews will not be held hostage by the war in Ukraine." "The attempt to punish the Jewish Agency for Israel’s stance on the war [in Ukraine] is deplorable and offensive,” he added.

Immigration and Absorptions Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata said diplomatic efforts are under way “to clarify the situation and resolve the matter accordingly."

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