Yediot Achranot on Tuesday revealed the drama behind the departure of the Chief Rabbi of Moscow HaRav Pinchas Goldschmidt from Moscow shortly after the outbreak of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
When HaRav Goldschmidt, who also serves as the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, arrived in Israel three months ago, there were already rumors flying that he fled Moscow due to the war. However, at the time, HaRav Goldschmidt issued an official statement saying that he was in Israel in order to tend to his ailing father. But at the same time, he said that he doesn’t know when he’ll be returning to Russia. Additionally, before he left, he transferred all his responsibilities to the deputy Rav of Moscow, HaRav Dovid Yushuvayev, and announced that he would continue to serve as head of the Beis Din of the CIS and Baltic States.
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Yediot reported that sources who attended the annual European Rabbinical Conference in Munich last week discovered that Rav Goldschmidt left Russia after being pressured by the authorities to express support for the war in Ukraine. After he refused to do so, it was hinted to him that it would be better if he left the country.
Sources in the Jewish community in Moscow say that since HaRav Goldschmidt, who has been the Rav of Moscow for 33 years, has been assisting refugees from Ukraine in recent months, he is afraid to return to Moscow. Due to his absence, officials in the Jewish community in Russia are trying to oust him from his position and appoint another Rav in his place.
According to the report, HaRav Goldschmidt has refused to comment on the claims that he was forced to leave Russia.
The report added that in the wake of the sanctions on Russia, members of the Jewish community say that thousands of Russian Jews have left the country for Israel and other countries.
“A significant segment of the community has left and others are on the verge of doing so,” a community member said. “There are many many people leaving. To be a Jew in Russia today is to live with many fears. The biggest question a person asks is; ‘When I’m ready to leave, will it be possible?’ That’s the big question. ‘Will the Iron Curtain close, like in the past? Will there be flights?'”
“There’s a lot of concern and pressure in the community. If you have children, you ask yourself – what will the lives of my children and grandchildren be like in a few years? The answer for anyone who understands the situation is that their life will definitely be more difficult. In many ways, it’s like reverting to the Soviet Union – living behind the Iron Curtain. There are no flights. In most embassies, there is no staff that can issue a visa to the West. Whoever opens their mouth against the war – they open a file against him and arrest him. City council members who spoke out against the war were arrested. Jews were also arrested during the demonstrations.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)