Russia's war causes more aliyah than Jewish Agency -ex-chief Moscow rabbi

Former chief rabbi of Moscow: The Russian government is encouraging aliyah to Israel instead of doing the opposite.

 A participant carries a flag with the "Z" symbol in support of the Russian armed forces involved in a conflict in Ukraine, during the Immortal Regiment march on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Saint Petersburg, Russia May 9, 2022. (photo credit: ANTON VAGANOV/ REUTERS)
A participant carries a flag with the "Z" symbol in support of the Russian armed forces involved in a conflict in Ukraine, during the Immortal Regiment march on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Saint Petersburg, Russia May 9, 2022.
(photo credit: ANTON VAGANOV/ REUTERS)

Russia's policies and its war with Ukraine encourage more Russian Jews to make aliyah than the Jewish Agency's efforts, Moscow's former chief rabbi and the current President of the Conference for European Rabbis (CER) Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt said on Monday in response to Russia's decision to close down the activities of the Jewish Agency in Russia. 

"If Russia wants to stop the brain drain and the fleeing of its finest citizens abroad, there is a very simple way to do it: Stop the war immediately."

Pinchas Goldschmidt

"What the Jewish Agency failed to do in the area of encouraging the aliyah of members of the Jewish community, the Russian government succeeded in doing in the policy it dictated during the war in Ukraine," Goldschmidt said in a statement on behalf of the CER. "If Russia wants to stop the brain drain and the fleeing of its finest citizens abroad, there is a very simple way to do it: Stop the war immediately." 

Flight from Moscow

Goldschmidt, who left Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, recently ended his tenure after 30 years as chief rabbi.

JTA reported two weeks ago that the board of the Moscow Jewish Religious Society voted to support a contract extension for Goldschmidt, even though he had been in Israel for some time. But the RBC, a Russian news organization, reported that the group, which represents Goldschmidt’s congregation and office, said he no longer had a role there. 

“The contract has ended.… There is no question of successors, perhaps there will be none,” Olga Yessaulova, a spokesperson for the group, told RBC. She said Goldschmidt had not been fired. 

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

Goldschmidt left Russia in March, two weeks after the outbreak of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. His daughter-in-law, the journalist Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, said recently that Goldschmidt had been pressured to support the war publicly but had declined to do so.

Chizhik-Goldschmidt explained that her in-laws "flew to Hungary two weeks after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They are now in exile from the community they loved, built and raised their children in, over 33 years." She revealed that "he was re-elected today by the MEPO community."

Chizhik-Goldschmidt added that "the pain and fear in our family the last few months is beyond words. The sounds of the Moscow Choral Synagogue ring in our ears…I’ll never forget our engagement there in 2014, and taking our children there, on Shavuot 2018."