Did Moscow's Chief Rabbi flee from Russia?

"Rabbi Goldschmidt didn't leave Russia, on the contrary — we sent the letter in order to clarify that he cannot be in Russia because of his father," a source told The Jerusalem Post.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt is the chief rabbi of Moscow. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt is the chief rabbi of Moscow.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Reports in the Israeli media claim that Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis and the Chief Rabbi of Moscow, has left Russia and therefore has asked his assistant to take his place.

According to Israel Hayom, Goldschmidt wrote a letter to his community in the Russian capital stating that "I would like to inform you that due to my father's illness and hospitalization, I need to be by his side because he needs relief and concern from his relatives. I will continue to serve as chairman of the Rabbinical Court of the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltic States."

He wrote in the letter that he has transferred his authorities to his assistant and that he does not know at this moment when he shall return to Russia because of the illness of his father.

Yet sources close to Goldschmidt told The Jerusalem Post that the letter was intended to calm down the members of his congregation since the chief rabbi has been gone for about three weeks.  Goldschmidt was in Israel for Passover, as he does annually, and before the holiday visited Jewish communities in Europe that have been hosting Jewish refugees from Ukraine such as Poland, Hungary and Romania.

"Rabbi Goldschmidt didn't leave Russia, on the contrary — we sent the letter in order to clarify that he cannot be in Russia because of his father," the source said.

 People walk at the Red Square on a sunny day in Moscow, Russia March 30, 2022. (credit: MAXIM SHEMETOV/REUTERS) People walk at the Red Square on a sunny day in Moscow, Russia March 30, 2022. (credit: MAXIM SHEMETOV/REUTERS)

The report comes as tensions rise between Israel and Russia regarding the statement made by Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, claiming that Adolf Hitler had Jewish roots. Even before the strange statement, Russia and Israel have been managing a very sensitive and delicate relationship — since the majority of Israelis support Ukraine in the war between the two neighboring countries.  

Earlier on Tuesday, the Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich responded to Lavrov's statement.  Schudrich has been chosen by the Conference of European Rabbis to be their spokesperson for issues regarding Ukraine.

“The latest statements of Foreign Minister Lavrov have rightly been labeled as antisemitic by Israeli and Jewish leaders worldwide," Schudrich said in a statement. "Whether this provocative statement was just a misstep or whether it was an ominous sign of a new Kremlin policy towards Jews, remains to be seen.”

Goldschmidt has been very quiet in the past two months since the war broke out. He hasn't spoken publicly or reacted to any of the events in the media — something he would normally do. 

Goldschmidt, as opposed to Rabbi Berel Lazar, Russia's Chief Rabbi, isn't considered to be close to the Putin administration. On the contrary: Goldschmidt and his congregation are far less connected to the Russian regime.