Russia Justice Ministry sues to dissolve local branch of Jewish Agency for Israel

The Basmanny District Court of Moscow Thursday received a lawsuit from the Russian Ministry of Justice requesting that the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency for Israel be liquidated, according to Russian state news agency TASS. The grounds for the suit were not provided.

The Jewish Agency, known as “Sokhnut” in Russia, is an international organization that fosters connections between Jews across the world and Israel. It also promotes the immigration of Jews to Israel, a process known as “Aliyah.” The agency is closely connected to, but is not funded by, the Israeli government.

On July 11 the Russian Ministry of Justice audited the agency’s Russian operations. However, the ministry did not provide the reason for the audit or its findings.

The Jerusalem Post also reported on July 5 that Russia ordered the Jewish Agency to cease all activity in the country on the grounds that the agency “illegally collected info about Russian citizens,” according to an unnamed senior diplomat.

After news of the lawsuit broke, the new Prime Minister of Israel Yair Lapid announced on Twitter that he will send a delegation to Russia in order to “ensure continued agency activities.” Lapid went on to say: “The Jewish community in Russia is deeply connected to Israel and its importance increases in any political conversation with the Russian leadership. We will continue to operate through the diplomatic channels, so that the important activities of the Jewish Agency will not be stopped.”

Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai also stated, “The attempt to punish the Jewish Agency for Israel’s stance on the war is deplorable and offensive. The Jews of Russia cannot be detached from their historical and emotional connection to the State of Israel.”

Recently the Jewish Agency has undertaken efforts to shelter Ukrainian Jews and has offered to help them immigrate to Israel amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The agency’s efforts have included visiting Ukraine along with Minister of Aliyah and Integration Pnina Tamano-Shata in order to tour the Israeli field hospital in the country and meet with Jews set to immigrate to Israel.

A preliminary hearing on the suit is scheduled at the Basmanny District Court for July 28.