At inauguration of Russian Jewish museum in Moscow alongside Russian FM, Peres thanks Russia for defeating Nazis in WWII.
Photo: Mark Bayman / GPO
President Shimon Peres joined Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Thursday to inaugurate the city's brand new Russian Jewish museum and tolerance center, the worlds largest Jewish museum.
In a moving speech, Peres said the museum evoked memories of his childhood home in Poland, and thanked the Russian people for their role in helping defeat the Nazis in World War II. "The Nazis murdered about a third of our people. They murdered 6 million Jews, among them 1.5 million children, in concentration camps and gas chambers," the president said. "Such a tragedy must never happen again." Turning to the issue of Iran's nuclear program, Peres said Tehran threatened the Jewish people with another Shoah.
"The Iranian regime claims that its religion prevents it from creating a nuclear bomb. And the regime is developing a nuclear bomb," Peres said, calling on Russia to stand with Israel in preventing a nuclear Iran.
The new center is housed in the former Bakhmetevsky bus garage, an avaunt-garde landmark designed in 1926 by Konstantin Melnikov, the leading figure of Russia's Constructivist movement
The Jewish Museum, which brings together different cultural traditions through the prism of Jewish culture, is the brainchild of Russia's Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar and Alexander Boroda, the president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, who came up with the idea back in 2007.
Lazar discussed the idea for the museum with Putin and the Russian premier lent his support saying it would help normalize interfaith relations.
Nikolai Patrushev, the then-Director of the Russian FSB, the successor organization to the KGB, also supported the museum. In September 2007, Patrushev gave Lazar 16 documents relating to Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who helped save tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis in World War II.
"For a long time the story of Russian Jewry was very hard and even tragic. Now things have changed," Lazar said,adding that Russia's Jewish community should not forget the hardest parts of their history.
Lazar praised Putin for his support of the venture.
The museum includes a section on the persecution experienced by Jews in the former USSR. Russian businessman Viktor Vekselberg, who donated to the museum, also praised the venture for not shying away from what he called sensitive questions about Russian Jewish history. "It's very important especially now to show the real story about the Jewish nationality and religion in Russia, and particularly to young people," he told The Jerusalem Post.
Joanna Paraszczuk, Jerusalem Post