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Annual Conference Reveals Shortage of Domestic Russian Rabbis

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 Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, seen here with Russian PM Vladimir Putin, commended Chabad this past week for their success in Eastern Europe and Asia.An annual conference held by the Federation of the Jewish Communities of Russia this past week revealed the scarcity of native rabbis in Russia. With more than 200 communities in 180 cities, Russia contains a meagerly sized Jewish population of 233,500, but the Federation stated the number may be as high as one million. Russian Jews are of varying denominations, and the gathering held in Moscow stressed that soliciting more foreign rabbis was a necessity to continually sustain the Jewish communities.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Federation trained over 200 Russian citizens for the rabbinate, but that number has fallen short of their needs. Efforts to interest outsiders to Russian communities have unfortunately been undercut by the government, which has notably expelled three foreign rabbis in recent years.

The latest was Yisroel Silberstein, an American who served as the chief rabbi of the Primorye region in the eastern segment of the country. Silberstein was dismissed on grounds that he was awarded a visa to “improve cultural ties,” not to serve as a communal rabbi. The Federation denounced the decision.

At the conference, held in Moscow, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu commended the Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries to Russia for their stalwart commitment towards spreading Judaism and increasing ties between Jewish brethren. In a statement addressed to Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, FJC President Lev Leviev, and Rabbi Alexander Boroda, Netanyahu highlighted Chabad’s successes in Eastern Europe and Asia.

Speaking to the emissaries who have striven to intensify the Jewish presence in the aforementioned territories, Netanyahu said, “You joined the Rebbe’s army of emissaries and you have done … a tremendous job to return Jews to their heritage, to return Jews to their nation, to return Jews to each other.”
“I ask that you continue your holy work for our common purpose,” he added, “to ensure a future for the Jewish nation and to ensure an awareness of Jewish heritage.”

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