Azerbaijan’s Rosh Hashanah Event Marred by Holocaust Comparisons Controversy

A boy receives an aliyah to the Torah in the Baku Jewish school. (Baku Jewish Community)

In a special event preparing for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish community in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, marked the start of the new school year, alongside the impressive growth of students in Baku’s Jewish school. Preparations for the arrival of hundreds of mispallelim, including many guests from Europe, the United States and Israel, have been completed in the three large communities in Baku, the small Jewish town of Krasnaya Sloboda, and across the country.

In a moving speech, the Sephardic Georgian Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Zamir Isayev, stated, “The remarkable growth in the number of mispallelim and guests is a direct continuation of the special atmosphere and wonderful security provided by the authorities in Jewish educational institutions and, in general, toward the Jewish community.”

Rabbi Isayev expressed the Jewish community’s pain regarding the slander campaign against Azerbaijani authorities concerning the “starvation to death of thousands of Armenians” during the recent conflict, a comparison, chalilah, to the days of the Holocaust. He emphasized, “There are events in human history where their use for anything other than preserving memory is forbidden and unacceptable. The Armenians, who are our brethren by covenant with the Iranians, cynically exploit the Holocaust for disgraceful political purposes.” He called on the Jewish leadership in both Israel and the Diaspora to support the Azerbaijani people, who have stood by our side for generations, safeguarded Jews, and provided refuge for those fleeing from the pogroms and horrors of the Nazis, and to vehemently condemn any such attempt.

Boys seen during davening in Baku. (Baku Jewish Community)

Amid this, there has been a wave of international protest against the use of the Holocaust by the Armenian propaganda, initiated by Rabbis and public figures in Israel and the Diaspora.

Many prominent Rabbis and Jewish leaders have strongly condemned the use of Holocaust comparisons in local conflicts. They stressed that any attempt to draw parallels between the Holocaust and regional disputes is entirely unacceptable.

Rabbi Shlomo Bakst, Rabbi of Odesa; Rabbi Mordechai Bala, Rabbi of Metz; and Rabbi Baruch Pinchas Pizon, Rabbi of Nice, joined voices to assert that they “reject any attempt to equate or compare the Holocaust with local conflicts. Such comparisons desecrate the true sanctity of the Holocaust.”

Other religious leaders, including Rabbi Yitzchak Dayan of Geneva; Rabbi Yosef Duak, Chief Rabbi of the Sephardic Community in the U.K.; and Rabbi Yoel Yefrah, Rabbi of Bulgaria, shared this sentiment. They emphasized that the Holocaust, with its horrifying systematic destruction, should never be invoked in any context of political disagreement.

Rabbi Daniel Ashkenazi, Rabbi of Barcelona; Rabbi Yitzchak Asiael, Rabbi of Serbia; Rabbi Daniel Torgmant, Rabbi of Monaco; and Rabbi Raphael Aiberis, a member of the German Rabbinical Organization (ORD) and the Great Synagogue of Europe, also stated their strong opposition to any such comparisons. They stressed that the Holocaust is beyond comparison and should not be used to make analogies in any conflicts.

Prominent public figures around the world and in Israel also stressed that they “strongly oppose any attempt to link the Holocaust to any regional conflict or disagreement.” The Shas Party in the Knesset sent a letter of support for Rabbi Zamir Isayev’s initiative, which called, as mentioned, to protect the memory of the Holocaust from Armenian manipulation.

In a letter sent by the leader of the Shas Knesset faction, MK Rabbi Yinon Azoulay, to Rabbi Isayev, he wrote: “I read with sadness about individuals of Armenian descent who compare the terrible Holocaust that befell our people with regional conflicts. Any such comparison is absolutely invalid, and there is no room for mentioning it at all.” MK Azoulay emphasized that “the Jewish people have an interest not to be mentioned in any dispute,” and therefore, “it is forbidden to use the Holocaust for any purpose other than preserving its memory.”

A hafrashas challah event for the ladies of the Baku community. (Baku Jewish Community)

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