Citing religious prohibitions, a rabbi in eastern Russia vetoed a local Jew’s plan to erect a statue of Moses in Birobidzhan — an area which Soviet governments designated as a Jewish autonomous region.
Eli Riss, a Chabad envoy who serves as Birobidzhan’s chief rabbi, torpedoed the plan earlier this month, he told JTA Thursday.
Valery Gurevich, a founding member of Birobidzhan’s current Jewish community of 4,000 people, told authorities that Riss supported his plan to erect a statue of Moses in Birobidzhan, Riss said. That led some officials to back the plan, which would cost an estimated $30,000, Riss said.
But Riss denies ever okaying the statue, saying Gurevich’s plan to feature a tablet of the Ten Commandments would violate the halachah - rabbinic law. He cited a passage from Leviticus which reads: “Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it.”