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Moscow chief rabbi quits Russia, alleges state pressure on war

Chief Rabbi of Moscow Pinchas Goldschmidt fled Russia two weeks after the invasion of Ukraine due to pressure to support the military campaign, his daughter-in-law said Tuesday.

Journalist Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, the wife of Goldschmidt’s son Benyamin, tweeted that Goldschmidt had “refused” to lobby for support for the war.

Goldshcmidt and his wife, Dara Goldschmidt, traveled to Hungary in March to raise money for Ukrainian refugees, then moved to Israel.

“They are now in exile from the community in which they loved, built and raised their children, over 33 years old,said Chizhik-Goldschmidt.

Rabbi Goldschmidt said in early May that he was in Israel due to his father’s hospitalization and did not know when he would return to Russia.

Goldshcmidt, who was born in Switzerland, told The British Times on Sunday that he had been advised against returning to Moscow at this time.

The rabbi said he could go no further in publicly condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to ensure the “survival” of Russia’s Jewish community of 500,000.

Israel’s Ashkenazi and Sephardi chief rabbis have urged leaders of Russian Jewish communities to respect Goldschmidt’s authority despite his physical absence from Russia, according to the Jerusalem Post.

The rabbinical court he led continues to operate under his direction and provides an appropriate response to those in need,they wrote in a letter, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Goldschmidt was re-elected as chief rabbi in the Russian capital this week for another seven-year term despite his self-imposed exile and efforts to sideline him, Jewish media reported Wednesday.

A spokesman for Russia’s chief rabbi Berel Lazar, who has also criticized the invasion of Ukraine, said he was unaware of any pressure on Jewish leaders to approve the war.

It would be surprising to learn that Rabbi Goldschmidt was under pressure,Boruch Gorin told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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