Georgian Orthodox clergy double down on antisemitic sermons

The Georgian Orthodox Church has come under fire for a series of antisemitic sermons and comments by high-profile clergymen.

Ilia Karkadze, a deacon at the Trinity Cathedral in the city of Kutaisi, voiced a number of antisemitic conspiracy theories, while dismissing accusations of antisemitism in the Church and attacking those he said had ‘spewed’ such allegations.

While insisting that antisemitism was historically alien to Georgia, Karkadze warned of ‘Zionist groups’ on the side of ‘unkind forces’. He then suggested that Jewish people ‘controlled the whole banking system’, both during the USSR and now.

Citing ‘prophecies’ by the 18th–19th-century Russian monk Vasiliy Vasilyev, Karkadze insisted that the ‘Uria’ (Jewish people) had ‘poisoned Russia’. The words of Vasilyev, also known as Monk Abel, have remained a source of antisemitic narratives across Eastern Europe and the Caucasus.

‘Who was Lenin? Who was Trotsky?’, Karkadze asked rhetorically and invoked the 20th-century antisemitic tropes of the Jewish people being behind the Bolshevik revolution, with only Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin able to stop them from absolute domination.

Karkadze’s antisemitic speech came in support of Ioane Gamrekeli, the Metropolitan of the Kutaisi-Gaenati Diocese and a member of the Church’s decision-making body, the Holy Synod.

Gamrekeli had come under fire for a sermon on 20 December at the Bagrati Cathedral in Kutaisi that was also riddled with antisemitic statements.

Recalling the positions of fourth-century Milanese Bishop Ambrose towards the Jewish community, Gamrekeli described the Jewish people as a ‘race of infidels’ and ‘persecutors of Christians’.

They [the Jewish people] are not few globally, and they have influence at the “court of the king”, always’, the Metropolitan added.

Gamrekeli then went on to compare what he called this ‘race of infidels’ to contemporary critics of the Church, without specifying who.

The Church did not respond to a request for comment.

On 28 December, Ioane Gamrekeli alleged that backlash against his 20 December sermon was an ‘orchestrated attack on the Church’ and argued that the medieval bishop, the one he originally invoked, was right in denying the Jewish community compensation for a demolished synagogue.

Gamrekeli went on to compare the historical plight of Jewish people for their rights as ‘originating’ both from historical injustices done to them as well as from their ‘unrealised ambitions’.

“We can draw a parallel with an aggression from some Afro-Americans towards whites, as a reanimated feeling of injustice once done to them”, Gamrekeli argued.

In a subsequent statement on 1 January, Gamrekeli also accused Tbilisi-based advocacy group the Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI) of seeking to damage Georgian-Jewish relations.

On 28 December, TDI called Bishop Ioane Gamrekeli’s sermon ‘extremely disturbing’ and criticised the Church for their failure to publicly condemn it.

‘The intolerance towards Judaism and Jewish people demonstrated by the clergymen of the Orthodox high hierarchy in Georgia is in disregard to the centuries-old tradition uniting Jews and Georgians’, TDI said.

related

Subscribe to EJC newsletter

Get EJC's bi-weekly newsletter, including the latest statements and news from the European Jewish communities, direct to your inbox.

European Jewish Congress will use the information you provide on this form to contact you. We will treat your information with respect and will not share it with others. By clicking Subscribe, you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

Statements

EJC to host joint International Holocaust Remembrance Day event with the European Commission

The European Jewish Congress, will host an online event marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 25 January 2021 at 16:00 CET in cooperation with the European Commission.

The event will feature EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor, Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President of the European Commission, and Holocaust survivor Tomi Reichental.

EJC welcomes practical handbook on the IHRA definition of antisemitism

EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor welcomed the publication of a handbook for the practical use of the working definition of antisemitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) as a key tool in the fight against anti-Jewish hatred in Europe.

EJC President Kantor calls EU Court of Justice ruling “a heavy blow to Jewish life in Europe”

European Jewish Congress President Dr. Moshe Kantor has slammed the ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union which allows member states to permit the requirement of stunning before religious slaughter of animals for meat, as a fundamental attack on the basic rights of Jewish religious expression and practice.

EJC welcomes reestablishment of full ties between Israel and Morocco

The European Jewish Congress has welcomed and lauded the reestablishment of full ties and warm relations between the State of Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco.