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Russia’s Chief Rabbi Says Sects Should Be Banned

Interfax, Russian Federation
Apr. 28, 2004 • Thursday April 29, 2004

MOSCOW. April 28 (Interfax) – Russia’s chief rabbi Berl Lazar has proposed passing a federal law banning the activities of religious sects.

“Reports available to us suggest that more than one million Russian citizens are members of various sects. This is a serious threat. We shouldn’t sit back and wait until something bad happens. We don’t need such sects,” Lazar told Interfax.

He said Russia needs a normal law clearly defining the meaning of the terms “sect” and “century old tradition.”

Lazar also said that Russia’s Jewish population has been estimated at about two million.

“In Moscow alone, there are definitely more than 500,000 Jewish residents. Some put the figure at one million. But maybe not all people openly say they are Jewish,” the rabbi said.

According to the official results of the latest census, there were only 230,000 Jews in Russia in 2002, which Lazar explained was because many feel that being a Jew is no longer a matter of nationality, but religious beliefs.

“I have always believed that Jews living in Russia have a great desire to return to their roots and live a full-fledged Jewish life,” Lazar said.

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