The Forward's Nathaniel Popper has an important story in this week's issue – a new split in the Chabad movement between Chabad's "chief rabbi" of Russia Berel Lazar and the American-led movement. Lazar wants the Jackson-Vanik amendment repealed. Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin and Chabad representatives in America do not. Lazar got Congressman Tom Lantos to work for Jackson-Vanik's repeal, infuriating Krinsky, Cunin and Chabad of America. Krinsky went to Washington last week to lobby Lantos, urging him to work to keep, not annul, Jackson-Vanick.
Why? Chabad of America wants the Chabad library – held illegally by the Kremlin since the end of WW2 – released before repeal. Lazar wants to do a favor for Russia's authoritarian leader, Vladimir Putin. hoping in return Putin will release the books.
The backstory here is Lazar's poodlekeit. He has served as Putin's lap dog for almost seven years, defending Putin from charges of anti-democratic action and human rights violations as Putin crushed democracy – and Lazar's Jewish and pro-democracy opponents, as well.
Lazar is a street thug elevated to the role of a mafia captain by order of Vladimir Putin, and he serves at Putin's pleasure, not Chabad's.
Whether Jackson-Vanik stays or goes, one thing is clear – Berel Lazar has no place in Jewish leadership of any kind. He should be immediately removed from office.