The latest addition to the myriad of museums in Moscow has just opened. Among the first visitors to the new Jewish Museum and the Center of Tolerance were Israeli President Shimon Peres and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The museum occupies over 8,500 square meters on the Moscow Bakhmetyevsky Garage which was formerly an art gallery run by socialite Dasha Zhukova.
The Jewish Museum and the Center of Tolerance features permanent and temporary exhibitions, conference halls, a library, a research center, a children's center, a museum shop, and a kosher cafe. It boasts twelve pavilions with a 4D cinema located at its entrance.
Like its ‘twins’ in New York, Paris and Berlin, the Moscow museum highlights historic Jewish documents, photographs and letters spanning a period of more over two centuries. The strand dedicated to World War II puts on public view full-scale copies of a T-34 tank and a PO-2 airplane.
According to Russia's Chief Rabbi Ber Lazar, what really makes the museum stand apart is that “first and foremost, it’s a proof of a new era in the life of Russian Jews.”
“Only 30 years ago anyone would tell you that a Jew had no future here [in Russia], that the last sparkle of Jewry died out. But our reality has proved that a will of faith, spirit and hope is stronger than any army or any authority. The fact that we feel proud of being Jews in Russia these days proves that one can always change things for the better,” he said.
“When, during communist times, Rabbi Lubavichi opened clandestine Jewish schools and synagogues, he believed that the present day would come. The day when the authorities in the new and free Russia would help us open a Jewish Museum,” Ber Lazar added.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov continued where Russia's Chief Rabbi started as he read Vladimir Putin’s address to those present at the ceremony, former first lady Naina Eltsina among them.
“I’m sure that the opening of the museum is further proof of the special relationship between our countries and people. One of the world’s largest Jewish museums is unique in many ways. Its selection of artefacts covers the key events, from Biblical to modern. Archive papers dedicated to the memory of those who died during WWII play a special part in its collection. In Russia and in Israel, sacred truth about the war has been treasured.” the Russian President remarked.
“We have to clearly realize that any attempts to review our country’s contribution to the great victory, and to deny the Holocaust – a shameful page in the world history – isn’t just a cynical and unprincipled lie, but the oblivion of lessons from history which could result in a repeat of the tragedy,” Putin warned.
Lavrov, meanwhile, noted that the presence of the Israeli President and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mr. Shimon Peres, added “profound symbolism and special importance” to the ceremony.
89-year-old Peres said he also hoped that the new museum would promote dialogue between Russian and Jewish people, who “share the hunger to create the best future for the entire mankind.”
“The museum tells us about the two ideologies: communism and Zionism. Communists wanted to change this world, to free it from oppression, social class differences and ethnic wars. Many Jews believed that communism will put an end to anti-Semitism. The Zionist movement was keen to change Jewish people, to free them from eternal dependency on the mercy of other peoples; to liberate them from the status of being a permanent target of anti-Semitism” the Israeli President said.
“Zionists wanted to return the Jews back to history as the people who cultivate their soil, defend their country, and improve their scientific potential. Despite the differences between these two ideologies, the USSR supported the creation of the Israeli state, and we’re grateful for it,” he concluded.