Party at Russian Shoah memorial causes uproar

Party at Russian Shoah memorial causes uproar

Critics say the practice of renting out Moscow synagogue/commemoration site for celebratory events is inappropriate

The memorial synagogue on Poklonnaya Hill, Moscow (Photo credit: LAL Mikhail Yakovlev/Wikimedia Commons)
The memorial synagogue on Poklonnaya Hill, Moscow (Photo credit: LAL Mikhail Yakovlev/Wikimedia Commons)

Several prominent Russian Jews criticized the recreational use of a Russian synagogue that also functions as a Holocaust memorial monument.

Moscow’s Poklonnaya Hill Memorial Synagogue was rented out on January 20 to the management of Russia’s Bank of Industrial and Investment Settlements, or PIR Bank. The bank’s senior staff celebrated the bank’s 20 years of existence with a barbecue of lamb, alcoholic beverages and loud music, according to a report on the website

Valery Engel, vice president of the World Congress of Russian-speaking Jewry, told the Pravda daily that while American Jews often hold events at synagogues, “Russian tradition has no such parallels. To some extent, it is blasphemy.”

Boris Spiegel, the president of the Congress, said: “Holding secular events there, perhaps, is not appropriate.”

The synagogue, which does not have a rabbi or regular congregation, is owned by the Russian Jewish Congress, which built it in 1998 in memory of hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews who died in the Holocaust.

PIR Bank is among the Russian Jewish Congress’ donors, the Congress said in a statement in which it defended its decision to allow the party to take place at the synagogue.

According to the Russian Jewish Congress, the synagogue has been rented out before for cultural activities, including a jazz concert.

“The Memorial Synagogue at Poklonnaya Hill regularly sees not only religious events but also secular, educational, public and charitable activities aimed at both Jews and non-Jews. We plan to continue this practice, acting upon the example of most of the leading museums of the world,” the Russian Jewish Congress said in a statement published last week on its website.

“In 2014, one such social event was a recreational evening for the bank — a longtime partner of charitable projects of the Russian Jewish Congress,” the statement read. ”We are grateful to the media for its major interest in the activities of the Russian Jewish Congress.”

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