Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Russian plot thickens

JTA reports (in its news briefs):
Several top members of the Russian Jewish Congress voted Thursday to oust the group’s head, Vladimir Slutsker, but Slutsker refused to step down, saying that only the group’s presidium could vote him out. Some leading RJC donors accused Slutsker of helping the Russian government deny Moscow’s chief rabbi, Pinchas Goldschmidt, entry to the country earlier this month, a charge Slutsker denies.
It's so hard to keep track of who's who and who's affiliated to whom in the Russian Jewish community -- so many rival organizations with similar sounding names -- but more on Slutsker here (...interesting headline in this context) and here. In addition, Forum 18 (I have no idea who they are) sheds some light on the latest developments:
"The Foreign Ministry knows nothing – whoever we address tells us to find out here the root of the problem lies," Tankred Golenpolsky, founder and editor of the Moscow-based International Jewish Newspaper, told Forum 18 on 5 October. Having spoken to people in Berl Lazar's circle, he doubted that Rabbi Goldschmidt's deportation was connected with FEOR [Chabad's org -- MS]: "They said, 'We're all rabbis, we wouldn't do a thing like that just before Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement, to be marked on 13 October 2005)'."
Instead, while emphasising that he had no firm proof, Golenpolsky suggested that the situation was connected with a dispute between Goldschmidt and the Russian Jewish Congress – to which Goldschmid's Choral Synagogue is affilated - under its latest president, Vladimir Sluzker, elected to the post in 16 November 2004.
Golenpolsky explained to Forum 18 that a building on the other side of Upper Spasoglinishchevsky Lane from the Choral Synagogue and now occupied by the Russian Jewish Congress was originally bought by Vladimir Gusinsky when he was the organisation's president in the 1990s. The building, which is on the books of the Choral Synagogue, was at first designated as a Jewish orphanage, he said, but this was changed to that of Jewish community centre when it was decided that the city centre location was not appropriate for children. Golenpolsky added that the Congress was supposed to be based there temporarily, but that Sluzker now refused to allow Goldschmidt's community to use any part of the building, "even though there's plenty of room."
It was about this situation that Goldschmidt complained to the Rabbinical Court in Israel some three months ago, said Golenpolsky, and on 27 September – the same day that the Moscow rabbi was deported from Russia – the court ruled that the Congress should not prevent Goldschmidt or Shayevich from entering the disputed building. "Goldschmidt has been in and out of Russia every 15 minutes," Golenpolsky remarked, "and this comes slap bang after the court's decision, so you begin to put two and two together."
It all seems so petty, but if true -- and it's all still just speculation -- it would explain the strange comment by Berl Lazar's spokesperson, who raised the possibility the visa revocation might have something to do with a 'conflict within the community,' even as everyone was pointing the finger at him.

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