Leaders of the Jewish community of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine condemned actions taken by Chabad’s chief rabbi of Russia, Berel Lazar, and a group of 16 senior Chabad rabbis from across Europe. Lazar and the other Chabad rabbis visited Russian-occupied Crimea earlier this month for a “Holocaust memorial service” ordered and paid for by Russia’s strongman, Vladimir Putin. Putin uses such events for public relations in the west to mitigate western perception of his anti-democratic actions in Russia.
Above: Vladimir Putin, left, Rabbi Berel Lazar, right
Ukrainian Jewish Leaders Condemn Chabad-Kremlin Crimean Meddling
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Leaders of the Jewish community of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine condemned actions taken by Chabad’s chief rabbi of Russia, Berel Lazar, and a group of 16 senior Chabad rabbis from across Europe, the JTA reported.
Lazar and the other Chabad rabbis visited Russian-occupied Crimea earlier this month for a “Holocaust memorial service” ordered and paid for by Russia’s strongman, Vladimir Putin.
Putin uses such events for public relations in the west to mitigate western perception of his anti-democratic actions in Russia.
“Though it was not their intention, these actions inevitably facilitate and legitimize the seizure and annexation of [Ukrainian] territory,” Dnepropetrovsk’s Jewish leaders wrote on their website last week.
Among the 16 rabbis who visited Sevastopol in occupied Crimea with Lazar were Binyomin Jacobs, a chief rabbi of the Netherlands; David Moshe Lieberman of Antwerp, Belgium; and Yirmiyahu Cohen of Paris.
The trip and the memorial was organized by Chabad’s Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia which Lazar controls and was funded by the Russian government on Putin’s orders.
Putin and Lazar have previously tried to use the Holocaust to whitewash Putin’s repression of democracy in Russia, most notoriously at the 60th anniversary ceremony commemorating the liberation of the notorious Nazi Auschwitz death camp in Poland in 2005.
At that ceremony in the bitter January cold, Lazar tried to trick Israeli President Moshe Katsav and other heads of state to get them to participate in awarding a medal to Putin – a medal Putin had himself minted and issued.
Katsav and the Israeli government did not fall for the ruse and neither did the heads of state from any of the other countries present – except for Poland’s president, who was also awarded a Putin-issued medal from Lazar. The Lazar-Putin ad hoc medal awarding ceremony tool place as the actual Auschwitz commemoration was ending. World leaders turned their backs and walked away as Lazar handed the Putin-issued medal to Putin.
The Auschwitz event deeply angered and hurt many Holocaust survivors who accused Putin and lazar of trading on their suffering and the memories of those who were murdered in Auschwitz to promote their own selfish goals.
“Jewish leaders consenting to participate in the actions of the occupation authorities in Crimea and Kremlin political maneuvers is a big mistake that may cause significant damage to the authority of the Jewish voice internationally,” the Dnepropetrovsk Jewish leaders statement continued, adding that “Unfortunately, this is not for the first time that European Jewish leaders are deceived by Kremlin propaganda.”
The idea the Chabad rabbis were “deceived” by Putin is, however, highly unlikely.
Chabad has been a willing and active participant in Putin’s leadership, supporting Putin and knowingly providing him with international cover as he ran roughshod over his democratic opposition and over democracy itself.
In exchange, Putin has marginalized Chabad’s pro-democracy Jewish opposition, Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike, arresting and intimidating its funders and leaders while showering benefits on Chabad and oligarchs who support it.
Russia’s recent illegal takeover of Crimea,which is legally part of Ukraine, gave Lazar and Chabad a measure of control over Crimean Jewish communities it previously lacked.