Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was reportedly in a meeting with Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar when FIFA, the international football association, announced its decision that Russia has been chosen to host the 2018 World Cup.
Russia was picked Thursday in Zurich over bids from England, Spain-Portugal and Belgium-Netherlands.
Putin, who personally lobbied throughout the bid campaign, said: “Russia loves football. Russia knows what football is and in our country we have everything to conduct the 2018 World Cup on a very worthy level.”
It is the first time that an Eastern European country was chosen to conduct the sport’s biggest event.
Lazar, who is also Chabad’s Head Shliach in Russia, met Putin at the federal government headquarters in Moscow, known as the Russian White House.
He was joined by Rabbi Alexander Barada, President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia who was recently ordained as a rabbi.
Here is the transcript of the beginning of the meeting:
PM Putin: First of all, I want to congratulate you and all Russian Jews, or at least those who celebrate this holiday, on Hanukkah. This is a good, happy holiday, a holiday of renewal. I wish you all the best.
Rabbi Lazar: Thank you very much. Thank you for taking the time today to congratulate us. Indeed, it is a bright holiday. And, perhaps because we can celebrate it so openly today in Russia – the menorah was lit in Manezh Square yesterday – it has become a symbol of a new Russia.
Hanukkah is the holiday of the victory of spirit over matter. The spiritual element in the upbringing of children, and in society as a whole, has become the norm for Russia, as we see today. We are very grateful to you because we realise that all positive changes happened thanks to your efforts.
Today in Russia, interfaith and interethnic relations are really unique. There is indeed not only friendship but also mutual aid between nations, between the leaders of religions. This is what the festival of Hanukkah is all about.
The fact that we see more tolerance in society now, and we can openly celebrate our holidays as well as go to the synagogue… I think that all believers are very grateful to you. May God grant that this becomes even better. We are trying to make our own contribution to the development of the country. Today, thank God, the community is evolving and people see that they can live comfortably, and there is confidence in the future. I am very grateful to you.
PM Putin: I would also like to thank you for the contribution you make to interfaith peace, which you mentioned. This is very important. Judaism is a traditional Russian religion. This is enshrined in the law of the Russian Federation. We have seen your efforts to maintain this tolerance. I am very grateful to you for this.
Nevertheless, I know there are good ideas that we cannot properly promote, including the creation of a museum that could be a memorial to the Holocaust and would remind people of the victims of the Great Patriotic War, in which many people of the Soviet Union and Russia, in particular, suffered. Let’s also talk about this today.