Russian President Vladimir Putin presented a prestigious award to Col. Rabbi Aharon Gurevich, the chief rabbi of the Russian Army on Tuesday.
According to Jewish.ru, Putin presented the Order of Friendship to Gurevich at the Catherine's Hall of the Kremlin, at the solemn ceremony of presenting state awards.
According to Jewish.ru, during the ceremony, which was broadcasted on the presidential website, Gurevich said: "I am proud that the Motherland has so highly appreciated my modest contribution to the cause that you lead, the cause of building and strengthening the happy and powerful country of Russia.”
What did the chief rabbi of the Russian army say?
According to the site, Gurevich also expressed gratitude to the Russian Justice Ministry "for creating conditions for strengthening and preserving spiritual and moral values, as well as striving for the liberalization of criminal legislation." This award was given to Gurevich while Russia is currently at war with Ukraine and a very sensitive time for Jews in Russia. Like many rabbis in Russia, Gurevich has been silent about the war, since he is in a senior official position on behalf of the army.
Gurevich also spoke during the event of the importance he sees in religious leaders taking part in military work.
“I cannot fail to note the role and active participation of the Main Military-Political Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces in the creation and development of the institution of the military clergy,” Gurevich said and added that in his opinion, “Russia is a unique example of interreligious peace and harmony."
On May 12, the RIA news site revealed that "Chief Military Rabbi of Russia Aaron (Aleksey) Gurevich was awarded the Order of Friendship 'for active social activities aimed at strengthening friendship and cooperation between peoples.'"
Gurevich was appointed to this role by Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar in December 2007 as the first chief rabbi of the Russian Army since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.
In an interview Gurevich gave in 2022, he said that according to his estimates, there are about 40 thousand Jews in the Russian army, "and therefore there is always enough work."