Micky Saidov, an Israeli businessman living in Russia never would have imagined that a trip with his daughter to one of the most talked about circuses in Moscow would go from an entertaining experience to a full-blown anti-Semitic one.
During one of the Nikulin Circus skits, the performers simulated a "Jewish Wedding", with the leading roles being filled by four monkeys, acting as the bride, groom and their parents.
"It was humiliating, embarrassing and even spine-chilling. My 14-year-old daughter Linoy was shocked, with her mouth wide open. She was so upset she wanted to throw trash into the ring to make it stop," Saidov told Ynet.
Following the incident, he decided to send a letter to the Israeli embassy in Moscow to inform them of the show's content. "I wanted to bring their attention to this very anti-Semitic, offensive, strident and chilling point with regards to Jewish feelings," he said.
Nikulin Circus's 'Jewish Wedding' (Photo: Micky Saidov)
The "Jewish Wedding" is part of the Nikulin Circus production, that puts on many shows each week on Tsvetnoy Boulevard in Moscow.
"I had my daughter in town and wanted to take her to the circus that is considered the best one here. Nikulin is very famous and attracts many tourists," Saidov said.
"The circus really was great, and we had a smile on our faces during the whole show, until suddenly, a religious man wrapped in a tzitzit wearing a hat and long side-locks walks in along with a few other guys dressed as Hassidics wearing white skullcaps.
"They were leading in a carriage with a quartet of monkeys – the groom and bride and their parents wearing skullcaps. For five minutes they performed before the crowd, and acted out a scene of a Jewish wedding with a chuppah, wine, and everything that comes with it. As a Jew, it was very unpleasant," Saidov said.
According to the father, the crowd knew exactly what was going on on the stage: "The crowd was entertained for five minutes, and we were in shock. I have been working in Moscow for three years as an Israeli real estate company's representative.
"I am not ashamed of being Jewish or Israeli and I have never come across such a thing. I have never come across anti-Semitism here and that's why I was amazed. Linoy was shocked as well."
'Crowd knew exactly what was going on' (Photo: Micky Saidov)
Alex Goldman-Shaiman, a spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Moscow said in response: "We dealt with the issue when the show started a few months ago. Among other things, we went to the heads of the Jewish community in Russia in May.
"They said this was not an anti-Semitic show, and at worst was just a matter of bad taste and/or poor humor. Therefore, they saw no need for any further intervention by the embassy. On our part, as Israel's embassy in Moscow, we will continue to follow and handle anti-Semitic phenomena throughout Russia."
The circus's Assistant Director-General Lidia Samoilova told a Russian entertainment website that this is the first time the show gets such an outraged reaction: "It would be funny if it wasn't so sad. Do the police have nothing better to do? Are there no problems in the country? They actually came here two days ago and laughed."
She continued to say, "For years now the moneys have been also dancing Georgian dances. They have also been dressed in traditional Russian clothing and sang, 'How drunk I am', but no one complained."
Maxim Nikulin, own of the circus' owners said, "I have a Jewish friend and he told me that every people has its fools." The monkeys' trainer Aziz Askarian said, "We consulted with representatives of the Jewish cultural center and they approved of everything. Moveover, they gave us advice on lighting that was imported from Israel."
Initial information received via Red Mail
Olga Sarik contributed to this report