Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Turf wars in the Russian Jewish community -- out of control?

According to Ha'aretz,
The chief rabbi of Moscow's main synagogue said Russian border guards had denied him entry to the country on Tuesday when he returned from a trip to Israel. Rabbi Pinkhas Goldschmidt, speaking on Ekho Moskvy radio, urged the authorities to review his case and let him return to Russia. He said the border guards told him that his Russian visa had been annulled, but gave no further explanation. He flew back to Israel after being denied entry.
Goldschmidt, chief rabbi at the Moscow Choral Synagogue, said he hoped the incident was a misunderstanding.
Well, not quite. Ma'ariv/NRG is quoting "sources in the Russian Jewish community" as blaming "the harsh competition between Jewish organizations in Russia" -- namely, Russian chief rabbi Berel Lazar, Putin's right-hand man, whose underhand tactics in order to win total control of his turf have already been well documented elsewhere.
Of-course, they also quote sources 'close to Lazar' denying this, saying that "being a moiser is the worst possible thing."
That's right -- it is, and in a country like Russia where the Jews are in any case a threatened minority which is vulnerable to the government's whims, playing off the government to settle personal and communal feuds and play petty power games makes it doubly so.
In fact, the thought that someone might have interceded with the government to get rid of a rival rabbi is so horrifying that one actually half hopes this was classic old anti-Semitism after all (as -- with Russia's recent track record -- it may yet turn out to be).

RELATED I: My first port of call when I read about Jewish communal politics in Russia -- Shmarya's take.
RELATED II: The Independent on tension caused by Chabad across eastern Europe. Overall, I tend to say that if people don't like Chabad, they should go out there and do the work themselves, but these wild west tactics they seem to be using in Russia aren't just about 'doing the work,' but about control.

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