Russia's state prosecutor has ordered an examination of Shulhan Arukh - a code of Jewish halakhic law compiled in the 16th century - to ascertain whether it constitutes racist incitement and anti-Russian material.
The prosecutor ordered the probe against a Jewish umbrella organization in Russia for distributing a Russian translation of an abbreviation of Shulhan Arukh.
Last Thursday, attorneys from the Russian State Prosecutor's Office questioned Rabbi Zinovy Kogan, chairman of the Congress of Jewish Organizations - one of the two large Jewish umbrella organizations in Russia. Kogan was asked to explain the contents of Shulhan Arukh, especially regarding its treatment of non-Jews.
Jerusalem sources following the affair said this is the first time since Stalin's regime that Russian officials have described holy Jewish scriptures as prohibited incitement. The affair has been covered widely by the Russian news media, eliciting sharp reactions from Jewish organizations in Russia.
The state prosecutor's last move has increased Israel's concern for the Jews in Russia, following the recent increase in anti-Semitic incidents there. These incidents include attacks on Jews and damage to Jewish property.
The inquiry was launched following a letter signed by 500 public figures, including some 20 members of the nationalist Rodina party, urging the state prosecutor to outlaw the Jewish religion and all the Jewish organizations operating in Russia.
The prosecutor rejected requests of Jewish organizations to open an investigation into those who had initiated the letter.
Rodina's leader, Dimitri Rogozin, sent a letter to Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinhas Goldschmidt over the weekend, criticizing the anti-Semitic displays in his party. "Theological sources cannot be subjected to judiciary procedures," he wrote.
Goldschmidt told Haaretz that he welcomed Rogozin's statement, but called on Rogozin to take firm steps against his party members who signed the letter.
Alexander Boroda, the president of the Federation of Jewish Communities told a Russian news agency: "We are shocked by the very examination. The fact that books from the 16th century, which have become part of Jewish heritage, are subject to investigation shows the short-sightedness of the state prosecutor's people."
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