Russia Investigates Jewish Law Code for Racism

Responding to reports of an official investigation against the Shulhan Arukh (Jewish Law Code) in Russia, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said the Knesset will show "zero tolerance" for anti-Semitism.

, | updated: 3:30 PM

The Moscow State Prosecutor has ordered an investigation into possible anti-Russian and racist material in the famous and authoritative Jewish Law Code. The work was authored nearly 500 years ago by famed Rabbis Yosef Karo and Moshe Isserles, and is the fundamental binding religious law code for both Asheknazi and Sephardic Jews.

The Moscow prosecutor ordered the investigation after 500 public figures signed a letter urging outlawing of Judaism and all Jewish organizations operating in Russia. Prosecution attorneys last week questioned Rabbi Zinovy Kogan, chairman of the Congress of Jewish Organizations, about the contents of the law code, especially regarding its attitude toward non-Jews.

Jerusalem sources following the affair, Haaretz reported, said this was the first time since Stalin's regime that Russian officials have described holy Jewish scriptures as "prohibited incitement." The affair has been covered widely by the Russian news media, and has elicited sharp reactions from Jewish organizations there. Russia has seen a rise of late in anti-Semitic incidents.

"We are aware of official condemnations in Russia, including by both houses of parliament, against this sharply anti-Semitic invective," Rivlin told the Knesset today, "but condemnations - thus it seems once again - are not enough. I am convinced that all MKs join me in my hope that these reports are fundamentally mistaken and that no official source in the democratic Russia of 2005 is involved in a new blood libel against the Jewish People."

"Anti-Semitism is, first and foremost, a malignant disease that damages the society in which it develops," Rivlin said. "Democracies that fear to defend themselves, democracies that fear to stop those who abuse the freedoms that they provide, democracies that show forbearance for fascism, racism and anti-Semitism - will not last."

Rivlin added that the Foreign Ministry has demanded clarifications from Russia on the matter.