Thursday, September 29, 2005

The rabbi and the visa

The latest on the case of Moscow's Chief Rabbi being denied entry to Russia is that may have had something to do with a change in the visa rules, which he was apparently unaware of. It still appears that he had a valid visa which was revoked at customs. The exact story, therefore, is still unclear and KEROOR, the organisation Goldschmidt is affiliated to, is reserving comment for now.
I should add two things. First of all, I find it weird that R. Goldschmidt was apparently unaware that his visa needed changing -- most foreign workers are extremly tuned in to these issues. This is particularly true in light of the fact that Russian Chief Rabbi Adolph Shayevitch's comment that R. Goldschmidt has never had any visa problems in the past is not quite right, as can be seen from this memo from 2001. You would think that under such circumstances, keeping his visa valid would be even more important, making this whole episode even more puzzling (either the Rabbi was extremely negligent or, how shall I put this politely, there's more to the authorities' story).
Second, regarding the allegations in the comments sections here that people who jumped to the conclusion that it may have had something to do with Chabad's Rabbi Lazar were hate-mongers. The fact is, this is the conclusion many people in Moscow itself jumped to. Indeed, Berl Lazar's own spokesperson -- knowing of the rumors it had something to do with visa problems -- said, in the same breath, that his organisation is ready
"to render every possible assistance to Rabbi Goldshmidt to get an entry visa if he asks for such help".
"Unfortunately, I don't know the details of the refusal of an entry visa to Rabbi Goldshmidt. If we are talking about a conflict within the community, it is absolutely outrageous and inadmissible to use such ways to settle accounts."
It's strange that he brings this up himself, without actually denying it, especially after the focus shifted to the visa issue. In any case, I can promise you that Rabbi Gorin wasn't responding to allegations by bloggers... and the very facts that such suspicions were the first thing that came to so many minds; that the 'conflict within the community/tug-of-war' (in other translations) is so openly and matter-of-factly referred to; and that R. Gorin actually leaves open the possibility it had something to do with this conflict -- speaks volumes here about the state of play in this community.

No comments: