Jewish Agency Official Says Russian Branch Not Packing Up Yet

By Hamodia Staff

YERUSHALAYIM – The Jewish Agency denied on Wednesday a report that it expects definitely to be expelled from Russia, The Times of Israel said.

Earlier in the day, The Jerusalem Post described “an intense meeting at the agency’s headquarters in Yerushalayim on Wednesday, where the topic of discussion was how to move all of the operations from Russia to Israel.”

The paper quoted a source who said that “the Jewish Agency will operate all of its work on aliyah from Israel, online or by phone. The problem is that there will be no way to encourage aliyah from Russia,” as the agency has been doing for years.

But an official at the agency later said that while preparations are being made for closing down shop in Russia due to allegations by the justice minister that it’s violated laws against collecting information about citizens, the move is not yet definite.

“We’re examining all the options for a rainy day,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The trial could go both ways: shutdown, or staying under tightened regulation,” he said, referring to court proceedings in which they are challenging the shutdown order. “But we’re certainly not going to leave if we can help it.”

Israeli president Isaac Herzog spoke on the phone about the case on Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but nothing seemed to come of it other than a statement from Herzog’s office that their talk was “frank and honest.”

The agency has approximately 200 employees in Russia and three full-time Israeli shluchim (emissaries), whose contract ended during the summer and who aren’t expected to return to Russia, at least not in full capacity. The agency also hasn’t found replacements for these shluchim, who run activities in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

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