By Paul Goble
Moscow police have arrested a man who attacked a synagogue in the Russian capital yesterday, wounding a guard and attempting to set the building afire while shouting anti-Semitic slogans. But Yury Kanner, president of the Russian Jewish Congress, says it is important to determine whether the man acted on his own or was directed by others.
Kanner points out that this is his synagogue, the one he goes to on Saturdays and holidays, and “for many, especially elderly Jews, it is their second home. It would not be an exaggerate to say that from the synagogue on Arkhipov street “began Jewish communal life in Russia” and helped individual Jews recover a sense of membership in “a great people.”
This incident, he points out in a blog post (echo.msk.ru/blog/y_kanner/1848484-echo/), is “out of the ordinary. According to preliminary reports, the man who carried out the attack was mentally ill. However, this is the typical diagnosis of anti-Semites.” Consequently, he says, he “very much wants that in the course of the investigation the authorities clarify whether he decided on this attack on his own or ‘good people’ pushed him in this direction.”
The Moscow police said initially that the perpetrator was a 40-year-old man from the Moscow suburbs (interfax.ru/moscow/530746). Later it came out that he has been working as a concert meister at the Orthodox St. Tikhon Humanitarian University and has been diagnosed and undergone treatment as a schizophrenic (interfax.ru/moscow/530775).
Aleksandr Boroda, the president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, told Interfax that the incident was an offensive manifestation of xenophobia, but he added in his view the attack “must not become the occasion for incitement of hatred in society” (interfax.ru/moscow/530748).
But both Yury Kanner’s question, the way anti-Semitism has often been the default setting of xenophobic elements in Russia, and the facts already known about this case are likely to suggest to many that some in circles “close to the Orthodox Church” could either intentionally or because of their own xenophobia have led this mentally unstable individual to act as he did
(For more details on the attack, see especially ixtc.org/2016/10/podrobnosti-napadeniya-na-sinagogu-v-moskve-video/ and ixtc.org/2016/10/srochno-napadenie-na-sinagogu-v-moskve-video/.)