Armenia’s tiny Jewish community is “deeply irritated,” in the words of its leadership, with an interview in the Azerbaijani media where the Chief Rabbi of Azerbaijan’s European Jews is quoted as accusing Armenia of intolerance and praising Azerbaijan for tolerance toward its minorities.

 Photo: Azerbaijan’s Chief Rabbi who says “Azerbaijan’s propaganda by an ethnic or religious minority leader [from Azerbaijan]  is taken with large trust in the world”

The letter, co-signed by Rimma Feller Varzhapetyan (Head of Armenia’s Jewish Community), Rabbi Gershon Meir Burshtein (Chief Rabbi of Armenia), and Villy Veiner (President of Menora Cultural Center) and published in full by PanArmenian, ridicules Azerbaijan’s Chief Rabbi Meir Bruk.  Indeed the Azerbaijani Rabbi is very interesting.  He is quoted as saying in the anti-Armenian newspaper that “Azerbaijan’s propaganda by an ethnic or religious minority leader [from Azerbaijan]  is taken with large trust in the world” (“Пропаганда Азербайджана представителем этнической группы или духовного лидера пользуется большим доверием в мире“) crediting his own campaign about tolerance in Azerbaijan.

Rabbi Bruk said in his interview to Azerbaijan’s Russian language Zerkalo newspaper on June 12, 2007 that “Armenia is weak spiritually and economically.”  Not surprised with seeing regular anti-Armenian “dirt” in the Azerbaijani media, Armenia’s Jewish leaders say they still cannot remain silent on the “well-paid order” their kin is obeying.

Armenia’s Jewish leadership calls “illiterate” Azerbaijani young Rabbi’s data that there are only 200 Jews left in Armenia because of the intolerance in the country.  There “are officially registered four Jewish public, religious and cultural organizations in the republic,” they write, “which are recognized by all world Jewish organizations. Here we have a working synagogue headed by the Chief Rabbi of Armenia.”

Although there is some extent of anti-Semitism in Armenia, the outcry of Armenian Jews is especially reasoned due to the outrageous intolerance of not only anything Armenian (remember the wipe out of the medieval Armenian cemetery in 2005), but the recent imprisonment and persecution of independent Azeri journalists, for example, across Azerbaijan.

The desecration of Jewish graves in Azerbaijan is of course not government sponsored.  So compared to how the Armenian culture has been wiped out in Azerbaijan by the state, yes, Jews live in a country of extreme tolerance.  They are just a bit scared to wear the star of David in Azerbaijan says the New York Times and their leaders need to do a bit of, in the words of Rabbi Burk himself, “propaganda” to fit in the anti-Armenian society. 

Here is more from the letter by Armenia’s Jewish leadership:

Doesn’t Mr. Bruk know the opinion of the European Parliament on countless violations of democratic bases and human rights committed by Azerbaijan, the continuing political and judicial prosecutions of any kind of dissent?

And of course God forbid Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh from goods that Mr. Bruk promises them in case if Armenia returns Nagorno Karabakh to Azerbaijan. Nobody here has forgotten Sumgait, Kirovabad, Baku, and Karabakh. People in other countries, including Israel too remember those “goods”.

We think that the wise Rabbi has forgotten that his and our mission is in peacekeeping and helping our countries to settle the accumulated problems on the level of popular diplomacy, and not in compressing the complex relations between the two neighbors, which are intense and without it. Our mission is not to become marionettes in the hands of certain political and financial bosses.

At the end we’d like to draw the attention of the whole European community, public and religions International Jewish Organizations that Jews of Armenia are deeply irritated at the above-mentioned article. We think that similar statements made by an official religions leader, Mr. Bruk, are of quite provocative character, they promote ethnic discord and are contrary to the tolerance policy declared by those organizations. We hope that actions of Mr. Bruk will receive adequate evaluation and condemnation.