Russian woman, 71, wins aliyah battle

Russian woman, 71, wins aliyah battle

Anna Bocharnikova becomes just the seventh person from the Russian Subbotnik community to be accepted for aliyah in the past five years

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Anna Bocharnikova, right, with Israeli Tova Filchagova
Anna Bocharnikova, right, with Israeli Tova Filchagova

A 71-year-old woman from a Russian village has succeeded in obtaining Israeli citizenship  after a three-year battle.

Former community leader Anna Bocharnikova, of Vysoki, belongs to the Subbotnik Jewish community of southern Russia, whose more than 600 remaining members are descendants of Russian peasants who converted to Judaism two centuries ago.

A  separate group of Russian Christians who chose to observe Shabbat is also known as Subbotniks, which has led to considerable confusion.

Bocharnikova is the first Subbotnik Jew to be allowed to make aliyah since 2016 and just the seventh to have done so in the past five years.

Before 2005, hundreds of Subbotnik Jews from Vysoki moved to Israel. All of them were recognised as Jews and integrated into Israeli society.

Fourteen years ago, however, Israeli officials halted the Subbotnik aliyah, casting doubt on their Jewishness.

Bocharnikova was helped by organisation Shavei Israel. Its founder and chairman, Michael Freund, said: “The treatment meted out to Subbotnik Jews by Israeli bureaucracy is simply inexcusable.”


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