In the middle of July the Russian chief rabbi, Pinchas Goldschmidt, announced his withdrawal. Since 1993 he was serving at the Moscow Choral Synagogue, one of the main synagogues in Russia and in the former Soviet Union.
The Swizz born rabbi also founded and has headed the Moscow Rabbinical Court of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) since 1989, and since 2011 serves as president of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER) which unites over seven hundred communal rabbis from Dublin to Khabarovsk.
As a rabbi, one does have an important task to lead the community in the right direction. In doing so, one must also dare to criticise things that are not going well and where humanity is being violated. In this case, the rabbi could not remain silent either, as Russia repeatedly violates human rights and causes suffering everywhere in Ukraine. But by criticising the government policy of the Russian Federation, his position as well as his person has come into danger. Indeed, the Russian government does not allow any criticism of its policies and certainly one is not allowed to report that Russia would wage a war in Ukraine.
According to sources, after attending the opening ceremony for the Conference of European Rabbis in Munich on 30 May in which he delivered a speech attacking the war, at the time of reelection as chief Rabbi of Moscow he was not located in Russia, being instead living permanently in Israel. He had remained at his post while outside Russia, delegating authority to a deputy in his absence. He had previously told Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that he did
“not define myself as an exiled rabbi, I am a rabbi who is not living in his community”.
Contacted by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Goldschmidt declined to comment or to answer questions about whether he believes that he will return to Russia.
A Russian Orthodox priest, meanwhile, was already fined in March, but now got again under investigation for the repeated offence of “discrediting the Armed Forces” after he posted a critical text on the social platform VKontakte. There, he condemned the actions of the Russian military. The post, as well as the account, have been deleted since. Although he is a suspect, Nikandr Pinchuk has not been arrested.
Pinchuk opposed the war on religious grounds. According to himself, he has committed no crime.
“I am a priest and have the right to denounce evil, regardless of who is involved and the political situation”.
The Russian press service of the Ekaterinburg diocese E1 reports that the Russian Orthodox Church “has nothing to do” with the diocese or the metropolis or with Pinchuk. According to them, Pinchuk belongs to a group of dissenters that formed after the split of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) under the leadership of Metropolitan Agafangel (Pashkovsky). This church is officially a semi-autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church under Moscow’s leadership. – Agafangel’s parish is in Odessa, where he led the Eparchy of Odessa and Tauris before leaving the ROCOR. –
The priest is not the only one under threat. The war has negative consequences for the freedom of press and religion, the Chrisitan radio writes in a press release.
Not being allowed to report the horrors of war or not mentioning that Russia is waging war in Ukraine makes it difficult to report correctly. Especially if one is not allowed to condemn the many atrocities.
For some Christian groups, such as the Orthodox Church, there is also a danger to their religious community because the Ukrainian Government has recently enshrined the rights of homosexuals in law, in order to qualify for EU membership. Many Orthodoxes do not like this at all, because they regard such people as abhorrent.