Moscow’s top rabbi has condemned the “total silence” from Russia’s parliament after its deputy speaker made comments which appeared to blame Jews for destroying cathedrals.
Pinchas Goldschmidt was referring to remarks made by Pyotr Tolstoy, the deputy speaker of Russia’s lower house from the ruling United Russia party and the great-grandson of Russian writer Leo Tolstoy.
Tolstoy had been asked to comment on protests against the planned transfer of state ownership of Russia’s St Isaac’s Cathedral to the Orthodox Church.
The demonstrations were featured in many liberal media outlets. The protesters, Tolstoy argued, were "working in various very respectable places—on radio stations, in legislative assemblies [and] continuing the work" of their ancestors, who had “destroyed our cathedrals after jumping over from the Pale of Settlement with revolvers in 1917."
Speaking to state news agency RIA Novosti, Goldschmidt said he was disappointed that lawmakers had not distanced themselves from Tolstoy’s words.
The rabbi stated that the deputy speaker’s words were not simply ignorance. “Germany has the highest level of culture in Europe but it spawned Nazism,” he said.
“What bothers me is something else—the reaction to this statement,” Goldschmidt said. “Instead of having Pyotr Tolstoy meet with the head of the Jewish Communities Federations of Russia, Alexandr Boroda, it would have been much more effective and pleasing if the head of [his] party in the lower house, speakers and other politicians distanced themselves from the aforementioned statement and made it known that they do not agree with this opinion. But from them, all that came was total silence.”
If there had been a similar situation in another country, the rabbi said, “we would have immediately seen how other non-Jewish politicians would distance themselves from such a statement. I am very saddened this did not occur here.”