Chabad’s Chief Rabbi of Russia, Berel Lazar, and his entourage allegedly forced their way into the offices of a Crimean Reform synagogue Thursday whose former rabbi was harshly critical of the Russian invasion and annexation.
Above: Vladimir Putin, left, and Berel Lazar, right
Chabad’s Chief Rabbi Of Russia Allegedly Forcibly Invades Crimean Reform Synagogue, Sparking Outrage
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Chabad’s Chief Rabbi of Russia, Berel Lazar, and his entourage allegedly forced their way into the offices of a Crimean Reform synagogue Thursday whose former rabbi was harshly critical of the Russian invasion and annexation, the JTA reported.
The accusation was made by Anatoly Gendin, the chairman Ner Tamid Reform Synagogue in the Crimean capital of Simferopol, on Facebook and was echoed by him in an interview with the JTA after that.
The synagogue’s former rabbi, Misha Kapustin, reportedly harshly criticized the Russian government’s annexation of Crimea, which has also been harshly denounced internationally and is recognized by no Western countries. Russia used alleged Ukrainian anti-Semitism as a pretext for its Crimean invasion and Kapustin fled Crimea as the Russians took over.
The Russian takeover and annexation puts Crimea under Lazar’s purview.
Gendin has been less critical of the Russians than Kapustin and previously reportedly suggested Kapustin’s harsh criticism of the Russian invasion and annexation was a mistake. But Gendin’s position may change (at least privately) now that his synagogue has experienced Lazar and Chabad firsthand.
Lazar has long served as a ‘beard’ for Russia’s strongman Vladimir Putin, telling the West that Putin is kind and honest and that he has worked to crush anti-Semitism in Russia.
But Putin has spent most of his time crushing is his democratic opposition and democracy itself, imprisoning opponents – including Jews who led Russia’s Jewish community and were not loyal to Lazar, Chabad or Putin – and amassing a personal fortune estimated to be in the billions of dollars through kickbacks and other corruption. And all the while, Lazar and Chabad have knowingly backed Putin and served as his cover.
Thursday, Lazar arrived at the Reform synagogue along with his security detail and approximately 12 members of a delegation of rabbis organized by his Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia and made up in part of rabbis from Chabad's Western European rabbinical front group, the Rabbinical Center of Europe. Lazar and the rabbis claimed purpose for being in Crimea was to attend a Holocaust memorial service organized there by Lazar and the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia he controls.
Lazar infamously awarded a medal to Putin at the international ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, Poland in 2005.
That medal turned out to have been issued by Putin himself, and Lazar deceptively tried to trick Israeli diplomats and politicians along with politicians from other countries to participate in the medal granting ceremony, which was held without permission at the end of the international commemoration. None participated save Putin, who had issued the medal and was having Lazar present it to him, and the Polish president, who was also given a medal by Lazar. The others present mostly walked away.
The incident at the reform synagogue in Crimea took place one day after Lazar and the rabbis met in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin and touted Putin’s stand against anti-Semitism.
Two of Lazar’s guards “pushed a local employee who answered the door and went on to explore the corridors and open space of the synagogue” and its offices without permission, Gendin, who was not at the synagogue when Lazar and his entourage arrived, reportedly claims.
A spokesman for Lazar, Rabbi Boruch Gorin, who was with Lazar when they Reform synagogue was visited, denied Gendin’s account.
“There was no confrontation. Mr. Gendin’s letter is strange to me. There was no issue of visiting the offices, this did not happen,” Gorin told the JTA. “[During the visit] the local employee was very courteous and so were we. If Rabbi Lazar ‘occupied’ the synagogue and center, then he has occupied all the synagogues and centers he has ever visited.”
Gendin scoffed at that claim.
“The doors are always open to the synagogue’s hall but looking around all the office facilities — that is bad form.…[However,] I don’t know the etiquette in Chabad in Moscow,” Gendin reportedly said.