Russia TLIG Magazine

T L I G M A G A Z I N E I S S U E - 3 9 35 Interfaith Panel Moscow Jewish Community Center Good afternoon and welcome. We’re very, very happy and honored to have you here today. As Rabbi Alon mentioned I came here to Russia 30 years ago for the first time. I was born in Italy. When I came to Russia I was introduced to a new kind of life in those days during communism when religion was not allowed and against the law. People were not allowed to gather; they were not allowed to teach their children about religion and everything was, not only problematic, but actually dangerous. Of course religious people used to hide and gather in the un- derground, in some secret places, apartments, in some forest outside Moscow and try to find out about their religion. But what I found out at that time that not only Jews were suffering, but actually every other re- ligion also: Muslims, Russian Orthodox... Each one had their own tribulations and hardships, and inter- esting enough, when the doors opened up, somehow we realized that people that were together in sorrow, managed to come back together in openness and in freedom. What happened was that all the different religions re- alized that only together can we open up to society, attract people and show that we really are interested in sending a positive message. And I must commend the Russian Orthodox Church for doing what they did 25 or 30 years ago, really understanding that, even Rabbi Berel Lazar Chief Rabbi of Russia though they are for sure the largest in numbers but they are not going to commend their beliefs and their ideology on other people. There has been, since then, a really working relation- ship between all religions. I must say that we feel sometimes like real brothers whether it’s with the Muftis, representative of Islam, the Russian Orthodox Church, Buddhists and other religions and denomi- nations. We work together many different projects; mainly social issues, but even beyond that, sending out a message which we think is extremely important that there cannot be a religion that does not respect other religions. If you are a believer in God, then you have to be able to open your hearts to others and un- derstand that there are different ways to reach out to God, there are different possibilities to embrace God. And if we are going to give each other this place, even more important, not only for us but really for our fol- lowers. Today, people in Russia really see how religious lead- ers not only sit together and decide different ideas to- gether but actually bring out new projects, new ideas in a united effort. I remember once we were sitting at such a meeting with the Patriarch and he said, “We will never vote on our decisions, there will never be a meeting where we will vote, if there won’t be a unani- mous decision we are not moving forward. Unless we are all together ready to move on, we are not going to do it.” There have been different examples wheth- er working in the army, teaching religion in school, making different projects like for example there was a holiday that was instituted in Russia in place of a very communist holiday that was really resembling the idea of atheism, we decided to bring in a new holiday that will be a holiday of unity of all people. And all these decisions were made, in every small detail, only when everybody agreed on everything. I think this is really the message that I would like to bring to you. We strongly believe that the Unity of God, the Oneness of God, God being One is not only a belief of God in the Heavens, it’s really a be- lief of Unity of God in this world. There cannot be a situation - God would not have created a situa- tion - where two people cannot find understanding, then there is something wrong with His Unity. Then there is not One God who created us all. Then there