(JTA) – UNESCO gave Moscow’s main Jewish museum an award for its promotion of tolerance.
The Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, a $50 million state-of-the-art institution that opened in 2012, received UNESCO’s Madanjeet Singh Prize for the promotion of peace and non-violence last week, Interfax reported.
Rabbi Alexander Boroda, the president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia and the museum’s director general, accepted the prize, which is named after an Indian painter, at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris, the report said.
Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, whose top aide Rabbi Boruch Gorin is the museum’s chairman, said in a statement that “spreading tolerance is an absolutely necessary thing for Russia,” whose Jewish community “is involved in this as much as they can be, specifically after the opening of the Jewish Museum.
UNESCO has faced criticism in recent months over the passing of several resolutions that were widely seen as erasing Jewish ties to Jerusalem by referring to certain holy sites only by their Arabic-language names. Lazar, who has friendly ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, harshly criticized the Russian government’s support for one such resolution in October.
“It is very strange that Russia, which has consistently fought all kinds of historic falsification, this time supported a blatant falsification of history,” Lazar wrote in a statement following a vote last month.
Israel, whose neutrality in the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia diverged from the anti-Russian stance of other Western countries, earlier this month voted in favor of a UN resolution condemning Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
Israel has vociferously protested the October UNESCO vote and briefly recalled its ambassador to that body, a move which Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov criticized as “disproportionate and overly emotional.”
“The text of the resolutions refers to the ownership of these holy places of all three religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam,” Gatilov said last month.
During a visit to Israel earlier this month, Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev said his country “never denied the rights of Israel or the Jewish people to Jerusalem, the Temple Mount or the Western Wall.”