‘Reorganization’: Jewish Agency in Russia no longer sharing info with Israel

Meanwhile, the Agency’s trial in Moscow, which was scheduled to begin on Monday, was postponed until October.

By Pesach Benson, World Israel News

Amid mounting pressure from Moscow, the Jewish Agency’s office in Russia is no longer sharing personal information about potential immigrants with officials in Israel, the Jerusalem Post reported on Monday.

According to the Post, the move went into effect on Sept. 14. The quasi-governmental organization, which facilitates aliyah, called the move a “process of reorganization.”

Also on Monday, a trial against the Agency was postponed. Moscow accuses the organization of violating privacy laws in the way it collects information on Russian nationals interested in making aliyah. Initial Hebrew media reports didn’t indicate why.

As part of the Agency’s reorganization, Russian Jews interested in immigrating are now being put in touch with a local call center, rather than the Jerusalem-based “global call center,” which fields queries from the rest of the world.

The Post noted that the global call center received 80,000 phone queries about aliyah from Jews living in Russia and Belarus in recent months, while 40,000 have had their applications approved. In recent months, an average of 2,000 Russian and Belarussian Jews have been arriving in Israel monthly.

Around 150,000 Jews live in Russia.

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The Post also reported that 40 Agency employees working in cities in the Russian periphery have been placed on “paid time off,” a move which was widely expected.

The Agency continues to face a possible ban on its activities in Russia. Israeli officials believe the crackdown is political, in response to Israeli support for Ukraine. Prime Minister Yair Lapid warned that shutting down the Agency’s activities would have a “grave impact” on Israeli-Russian relations.

Further complicating matters for the Jewish Agency, Russia broadened its definition of “foreign agents” earlier this year. The definition now includes “those who take part in any activity that authorities determine goes against Russia’s national interests or who receive support of any kind, not just money, from abroad.”

As a result, representatives of Jewish organizations such as the Jewish Agency can now be categorized by Moscow as “foreign agents.”