September 25, 2023
emergency conference

75 leading rabbis of Russia will reiterate their collective commitment to “not abandoning their communities and staying with them to provide spiritual, psychological and emotional support, no matter how complicated things get” in an emergency conference in Moscow, according to the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, an organization affiliated with the Chabad movement.

Russia’s rabbis have largely chosen to stay in Russia and support their communities rather than criticize the country outwardly and leave.

The rabbis attending the emergency conference are representing 400 of their colleagues from across the country.

One of the purposes of this conference is to counter the assumption in the Jewish world that all of the Jews in Russia are interested in an exodus from the country.

“There is a lot of fear and uncertainty for the Jews in Russia,” the federation press release said. “They are told by people outside Russia that their only option is to give up their homes and lives and flee abroad. This has only been compounded by what appears to be the Russian government’s attempt to shut down the Jewish Agency. Yet the vast majority of Russian Jews have chosen to remain,” according to the press release.

How have religious leaders been handling the war?

Chief Rabbi of Russia and President of the Conference of European Rabbis Pinchas Goldschmidt is pictured during an interview with Reuters in a hotel in Berlin, Germany, February 24, 2016

Since the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war in February, many members of Russia’s non-Jewish clergy have given their full-throated support for the invasion. A smaller number of clergy have chosen to speak out against the government’s policies and leave the country. From the beginning of the war, the rabbis of Russia have chosen a third approach: To remain with their congregations and communities, while simultaneously calling for immediate peace and the end to the bloodshed. The exception was former chief rabbi of Moscow Pinchas Goldschmidt, who criticized Russia and fled the country.

“Meanwhile, some voices in the West have demanded that rabbis sacrifice the Jewish community’s safety by publicly attacking the government,” the federation hinted toward Goldschmidt in the press release.

At the emergency conference, the rabbis will recommit to their pledge to “continue leading their communities and not abandoning them during these difficult times,” according to the federation.

They will also issue a joint appeal for peace and an immediate end to the bloodshed.

Meanwhile, Israel’s chief rabbis and national leaders, including President Herzog, have sent letters of support and encouragement to Russia’s rabbis for their “heroic” efforts.

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