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Moscow no longer has a chief rabbi

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, who left Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, is no longer the chief rabbi of Moscow after 30 years with the title.

  • The board of the Moscow Jewish Religious Society voted last month to support a contract extension for Rabbi Goldschmidt, even though he had been in Israel for some time. But the RBC, a Russian news organization, reported Wednesday that the group, which represents Rabbi Goldschmidt’s congregation and office, said he no longer had a role there.

“The contract has ended. … There is no question of successors, perhaps there will be none,” Olga Yessaulova, a spokesperson for the group, told RBC. She said Rabbi Goldschmidt had not been fired.

Rabbi Goldschmidt left Russia in March, two weeks after outbreak of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. His daughter-in-law, the journalist Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, said recently that Rabbi Goldschmidt had been pressured to support the war publicly but had declined to do so.

The community decided not to renew Rabbi Goldschmidt’s contract despite the board vote, a person with knowledge of the community told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on condition of anonymity, citing concerns for the community’s safety. The decision not to extend Rabbi Goldschmidt’s contract also owed to safety concerns, the source said.

Contacted by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Rabbi Goldschmidt declined to discuss what happened to result in him leaving the position he had held since 1989.

  • “As I say goodbye to Moscow and Russia, I am thinking especially of one man: Albert Reichmann, who proposed me for the post of chief rabbi and who had faith in me that I would be able to fulfill that great responsibility,” Rabbi Goldschmidt told JTA. Reichman, 93, is a Canadian philanthropist who was deeply involved in the revival of Russian Jewry. He is currently hospitalized in critical condition.
  • “I am leaving a community in distress. But from the outside, I will do my utmost to help my beloved community,” Rabbi Goldschmidt said.

In a statement to his congregants at the Moscow Choral Synagogue, Rabbi Goldschmidt said: “I wish you all the very best, stay in touch and will provide assistance and support to each of you,” according to RBC.

Other rabbis in Russia, including the country’s chief rabbi, Berel Lazar, and his top spokesperson Boruch Gorin, have remained in the country after expressing concerns about the war.

  • Rabbi Lazar and Gorin belong to a Chabad-affiliated group, the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, that has long enjoyed strong ties to President Vladimir Putin. The group gained ascendency over all other Jewish organizations in Russia in the early 2000s, helped by the land and funding it received from the Russian government.

Rabbi Goldschmidt, meanwhile, has had a rockier relationship with Russian authorities.

  • Born in Switzerland and not affiliated with Chabad, the Orthodox rabbi was suddenly denied entry into Russia in 2005, then allowed back in weeks later. Authorities never offered a detailed explanation for the episode but some officials said there had been a “national security issue.”

The trajectory of Rabbi Goldschmidt’s career increasingly has centered on Western Europe. He has served as the head of the Conference of European Rabbis since 2011.

Source: Arutz Sheva

Header: Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar during a ceremony unveiling the memorial to members of the resistance at Nazis concentration camps during World War Two, at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Centre in Moscow on June 4, 2019. (Photo by Sergei ILNITSKY / POOL / AFP)