Dr Mike Evans

US may get involved in Israel-Russia controversy over Jewish Agency

The U.S. is looking to intervene to help Russia’s Jewish Agency to remain open and continue operations to allow Russian Jews to return to Israel, despite recent reports that Russia intends to close the agency.

The Times of Israel reported that a U.S. State Department spokesperson said on Thursday that the U.S. encourages an agreement that “preserves the ability of Jews in Russia to travel to Israel.”

The U.S. continues to monitor the situation after Russian leaders announced last week its plans to shut down the Jewish Agency. The proposed closure was reportedly based on Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s strong words opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

During a hearing this week, Israel’s Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata said, “The government of Israel is giving the necessary legal assistance to the Jewish Agency to deal with the claims that were made against it by the Russian justice ministry, and I am sure that the issue will be resolved quickly. Even if this will require some adjustments — we are prepared for it.”

A court hearing is set for Aug. 19.

Russia’s concern could partly be due to the large number of Russian Jews who have fled the country for Israel since February when its invasion of Ukraine began. More than 30,000 Russian Jews have reportedly left in the past six months.

Israeli leaders fear the shutdown could be an antisemitic move that would limit Jews from returning to their historic homeland.

Russian Jew and human rights leader Natan Sharansky told CBN News this week that the issue is an important concern.

“We should not be desperate. At the same time, I’m warning all our friends in Russia and Ukraine that those who are seriously thinking about Aliyah (immigrating to Israel) should better do it as quickly as possible because situations [are] worsening very quickly,” he said.