Trial to Decide Fate of Jewish Agency in Russia Postponed

A view shows a sign at the entrance to a Russian branch of the Jewish Agency for Israel, in Moscow, Russia. (REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina)

The Jewish Agency trial that was scheduled to begin in Moscow on Friday has been postponed by one month, Russian media reported on Friday.

The Basmanny Court of Moscow decided to push the hearing off until September 19. This is exactly one month off from August 19, when the hearing was originally supposed to be held.

The organization has been accused by the Russian Justice Ministry of violating the law by allegedly collecting citizens’ information and if found guilty, might lose its right to operate in the country and be forced to close its offices.

Earlier this week, Israel asked Russia to postpone the court hearing to have time to reach an agreement as it believes the matter could be settled through negotiations.

Some politicians have expressed concern that Russia may be retaliating for Israel’s criticism of its invasion of Ukraine, and about the effect that bilateral tensions might have on Russia’s own Jewish community. Following a conversation last week between President Yitzchak Herzog and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Israeli officials told media that Putin reassured his counterpart that the Jewish Agency was a “purely legal” matter and not a way to “punish Israel for its growing support for Ukraine.”

Israel dispatched a legal delegation to Russia this week in an effort to resolve the dispute, but there was little expectation that the court would not let the case move forward. Israeli officials are working under the assumption that the decision to go ahead with the trial was in fact made by senior levels in the Russian government rather than by the presiding judge.

Some 600,000 Russians are eligible to emigrate to Israel because of Jewish heritage, and officials say there has been a rise in applications since the dispute arose.

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