The Moscow Jewish Community Center hosted a visit by Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian Federation's first deputy prime minister. The top official began his tour and meeting with Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, director of Chabad-Lubavitch activities in the country, by congratulating the Jewish community and Lazar on the occasion of Chanukah.

Medvedev then sat down with Lazar and Alexander Boroda, chairman of the board for the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, for a discussion about the importance of religious education and legislation designed to improve the educational system for all of Russia. Education Minister Andrei Fursenko and leaders of Jewish higher education institutions also participated in the meeting.

The first deputy prime minister first addressed the threat of extremist propaganda and pledged to fight campaigns by neo-Nazi and other anti-Semitic groups.

"These phenomena exist," he said. "We must not close our eyes to them. It is the state's role to clearly and rigidly fight these manifestations."

Turning to legislative matters, the politician emphasized that the State Duma, the lower house of Russia's parliament, passed a first reading of a law on state accreditation of non-governmental and religious educational programs.

"This law will make it possible, from every facet, to considerably even out the field between religious higher education institutions and state establishments and will, in the end, contribute to their development," explained Medvedev.

In his presentation, Lazar linked the tenfold growth in the number of organized Jewish communities in Russia over the past decade to the need to determine the educational tasks before such communities.

"A new era has arrived for Jewish communities in Russia and we are thankful to the state for paying attention to this issue, including the spiritual education of young people in Russia," stated Lazar. "Today our graduates are staying in Russia and many see their future here."

"Jewish educational establishments are, to a large extent, still being formed," added Boroda. "There are challenges associated with finding teaching staff."

Boroda also underlined the challenge of preparing specialists for different sectors of the Russian economy, and advocated for the government's releasing of yeshiva students from mandatory army service.

"The lifestyle of religious youth is incompatible with the realities associated with the fulfillment of army service," he said. "Students and graduates of yeshivas would be of considerably greater benefit to civil society by educating people about spiritual values."

Medvedev concluded his visit by touring the center's library, lecture hall and synagogue.