News / Europe

Jewish History Museum Preaches Tolerance in Modern Russia

James Brooke
One century ago, Russia was home to the largest Jewish population in the world - about 5 million people. But Nazi genocide - followed by massive emigration - radically cut Russia’s Jewish population to only 150,000 today.

Now, Russian Jewish groups are embarking on a new tactic to guarantee the community’s survival. In early November, on a quiet side street in Moscow, they opened Europe’s newest - and largest - museum devoted to Jewish culture, the Jewish Museum & Tolerance Center.

Inside the $50 million, privately financed museum, interactive exhibits draw people into Jewish culture, life and history.

Exploration of the past

On a recent afternoon, Asyia Muravyova, a 21-year-old Russian university student, pauses from exploring the exhibits.

She says, “The museum is interesting in that it differs from others because a person can not only read something and understand it, but can also get a feeling of what occurred. Everything here is a channel to feeling.”

The museum explores anti-Semitism under the Czars, Jewish participation in the 1917 Communist revolution, anti-Semitism and the Nazi genocide during World War Two, Jewish contributions to the Soviet War effort, and the heavy emigration of Jews immediately before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Katsiaryna Yurechka, a university student from Belarus, says the exhibits showed her a hidden history.

She says, “Here you see the history - you see the people suffering, but at the same time you also see people who were very brave, who participated in the Second World War. You see their vision, and how they tried to maintain a family together, try to stay together.”

Bridge from Russia to Israel

Israeli President Shimon Peres was born before World War II in what is now Belarus. He flew from Israel to Moscow for the November 8 museum opening.

Now 89 years old, the Israeli leader told reporters, “My mother sang to me in Russian, and at the entrance to this museum, memories of my childhood flooded through my mind, and my mother’s voice played in my heart.”

He said to Russians in attendance: “I came here to say 'thank you. Thank you for a thousand years of hospitality.'”

Museum chairman Borukh Gorin sees the new museum as a bridge between Russia and the one million Russian-speaking Jews of Israel.

Connecting cultures

Israelis and Russians no longer need visas to visit each other’s countries. There are now six flights a day between Tel Aviv and Moscow - the same frequency as flights between Tel Aviv and New York.

He said that Russian Jews that live in Israel “see themselves much more connected to the Russian culture, to Russian literature, to Moscow theaters.”

In addition to welcoming Jewish visitors from overseas, Gorin hopes the museum will push for tolerance for minorities here in Russia.

He said, “The best thing is to talk, to explain yourself, to tell your story, to tell your history - and to be much more tolerant by yourself to the national history, to the nation’s problems. And this museum is aimed in this field.”

He added that Russian Muslim leaders visited the Jewish Museum on its opening day.

Their reaction? To decide to build a similar museum to educate Russians about their history and Russian Muslim contributions to modern Russia.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Haron from: Afghanistan
November 18, 2012 8:39 AM
one thing is in Political points or views. Political points does not have permanent enemy or permanent friendship. and does not recognize any permanent enemy or permanent friendship. e.g: once upon a time Iran was the enemy of Russia. but, today they piece out an apple. one piece is eating by Iran and one piece is eating by Russia. if Jews feel that Russia will stand with them against Iran, Syria or China. this means they want to perish themselves. because political points does not accept any borders.

by: Tim Upham from: Tum Tum, United States
November 17, 2012 4:44 PM
It does not just preach tolerance in Modern Russia, but shows a part of Russian history. For Jews, and their culture and history are very much a part of Russia. The majority of American Jews are descendants of Jews from Russia. Lenin was a mixture of German, Swedish, Jewish, Chuvash, and Kalmyk. When it comes to Jews and Russia, how can you separate one from the other?

by: Rob Swift from: Great Britain
November 17, 2012 11:09 AM
It would be a good idea to open one in Gaza.
The pen is mightier than the sword.
In Response

by: Tim Upham from: Tum Tum, United States
November 17, 2012 5:53 PM
This is not World War II. The Jews in World War II were not a political entity. Recently, a sister of a Hamas leader was treated at an Israeli hospital. Hamas has recognized the pre-1967 borders, and Hebrew is now being offered in Gaza schools. Hamas is more than capable of recognizing the State of Israel, but they need international pressure to do so. Turkish President Abdullah Gul has called upon Hamas to recognize the State of Israel. But more international pressure is needed.
In Response

by: jimmy from: Orange county Cali
November 17, 2012 4:58 PM
Gaza is our generations version of Germany concentration camp. People are not allowed to go in or out. It’s sad when people say “They don’t recognize Israel’s right for existence”. It’s the same as Hitler saying “Yeah, for some reasons the Jews don’t like me?”

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs