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Russia Designates the former Chief Rabbi of Moscow as a “Foreign Agent”

By 07/03/2023 12:39 PMNo CommentsBy YidInfo Staff


A year after leaving the nation and declining to declare his support for the conflict in Ukraine, Russia has branded Pinchas Goldschmidt, the former chief rabbi of Moscow, a “foreign agent.

The designation prevents people who get it from taking part in many parts of Russian public life and cannot be challenged in court.

The term was broadened by the Russian government last year as it cracked down on dissent in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine, and it has threatened to identify the Jewish Agency for Israel, which aids Russian Jews in emigrating, as such.

In Goldschmidt’s case, the title is probably symbolic because he has stated that he would not go back to Russia after actively opposing the war and urging Russian Jews to leave from afar.

In reaction to the identification as a foreign agent, he reaffirmed that statement on Saturday, asserting as he has in the past that Russia is about to launch an antisemitic campaign.

In a statement that was a reiteration of remarks he had made earlier in December, he said that “Russia has changed its face.

“Before it’s too late, I urge the Jewish community to leave the country.” Since the war’s start in February 2022, many Russian Jews have emigrated, with tens of thousands going to Israel.

One of them was Goldschmidt, the leading rabbi of Moscow since 1993, who left Russia in March 2022, just weeks into the conflict.

Later, he admitted that he had succumbed to pressure to back the war.
“I resigned because to continue as Chief Rabbi of Moscow would be a problem for the community because of the repressive measures taken against dissidents,” he said to the Guardian in December.

He continued by saying that throughout Russian history, “whenever the political system was in danger, you saw the government trying to redirect the anger and discontent of the masses towards the Jewish community.”

As Russia transitions back to a new form of the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain gradually comes down once again, he claimed that anti-Semitism is on the rise.

For this reason, I think leaving is the wisest course of action for Russian Jews. Jews were prohibited from leaving the Soviet Union and were not permitted to practice their faith.

Goldschmidt, who now resides in Israel, is still in charge of the Conference of European Rabbis, a position he has held since 2011.

He has no connection to the Hasidic Chabad-Lubavitch organization, whose top rabbis in that country have a far tighter bond with Vladimir Putin.

Chabad leaders have voiced their concerns over the conflict even though Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar and his chief spokesman Boruch Gorin have stayed in the nation.

Numerous Russian Chabad rabbis came together in September and issued a statement that said, in part, “We pray that no more blood be spilled and call upon people of good conscience everywhere to help aid those in need, including refugees, and end the suffering.”

A Russian official shortly after called the Chabad organization a “neo-pagan cult” that was aiming for “global domination” in an opinion piece for which he later offered an apology.


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