President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon!
We have been intending to meet for a long time but our meeting was always postponed. I am very pleased to see you.
Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar: Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: How is the Jewish community? How are other problems that we talked about during our previous meeting being resolved?
Berl Lazar: The Jewish community in Russia is developing very dynamically, thank God. Every year we open new centres and new synagogues. In the next two or three months we will open new communities and centres in Ufa, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Lipetsk, Volgograd and Omsk. New schools are opening.
Today the Jewish population lives comfortably in Russia. Many people are returning to their traditions, to their culture. For several years now we have been talking about creating a Russian-Jewish museum, a museum of tolerance. There is perhaps a need to create such a museum, a museum designed to educate the younger generation in a spirit of tolerance and mutual respect. Because today Russia is a multinational country and we always are aware of support from our brethren, and national and religious tolerance in Russia is very positive.
When speaking in the west I always emphasise that one can look to Russia as an example of a country where Muslims, Orthodox believers and other religious faiths live in peace. And I truly believe that it is necessary to use such an approach to talk about the history of the Jews in Russia and how they lived. And the Red Army’s role in liberating the Jews from Nazism. I think there are many such issues that will help educate our youth in a spirit of respect and tolerance. And this will certainly also be helpful for Russia. But in general I think it is very important for guests who will come here to see the wounds of history.
We see that today there are people who want to rewrite history, to talk about different theories, different myths. I think that the museum can demonstrate the difference between what there was in the past and what we have now.
Vladimir Putin: It is a good idea. Perhaps it will not resolve all of the project’s financial problems but I promise you that as a first step I will transfer part of my salary to the fund for the construction of the museum.
Berl Lazar: Thank you. Perhaps you will serve as an example to others?
Vladimir Putin: I think that many people will want to support a project designed to ensure that all faiths and all national communities live in peace and harmony. And this is a genuine strength of a multinational and multireligious country such as Russia. We have spoken about this many times and it is a good thing.