Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt fled Moscow: he had received pressure from Putin

Two weeks after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the chief rabbi had driven from Moscow to Hungary and from Jerusalem. A news that had been hidden for almost three months

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KIEV – He understood immediately. And two weeks after the invasion, silent, he had packed his bags. Away from Moscow. After thirty-three years, and before the worst came. The Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt he didn’t take planes, he drove away. Destination Hungary. And then, Jerusalem.

For nearly three months, the highest authority in the Russian Jewish community managed to keep the news hidden, protected by all its brothers in the faith. Now safe, New York-based journalist Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt can reveal it from the United States with a tweet: Pinchas and his wife, Dara, are in exile from the community they loved and raised their children. for over 33 years. The pain and fear of our family, in recent months, beyond words.

2022, escape from Moscow. Too much pressure from Putin to give the rabbi his blessing to the troops at war. Too many checks by the FSB, silent phone calls, threats. For a while, in the face of the Kremlin’s demands, Goldsmith had limited himself to opposing a firm and silent refusal. Without taking a word on the subject. But in the end, he could no longer be silent.

In the silent and terrified desert of many others religious communities in Russia – and even worse, in the regime-favored bass drum that the Orthodox Church of Patriarch Kirill is playing -, through the rabbi the voice of the Muscovite Jews was raised by surprise a few days ago. Other than denazification, Goldsmith, who is also president of the Conference of European Rabbis, had publicly denounced: This war of Putin in Ukraine is leading to a great exodus of Jews, the largest recorded since the times of Nazism and Stalin. And the Special Military Operation, had this special effect: to drive out the eternal wanderers.

More than half of the Ukrainian community, estimated at up to 400 thousand people, has now fled to Poland, Romania, Moldova, the Baltic countries, Israel, America. An exodus. Ukrainian Jews are a historical presence and their most famous exponent today, the president Volodymyr Zelensky, considered by the Kremlin as the number one target. Both Ukrainian and Russian Jews weigh heavily in the world of communities: in Jerusalem, they often condition governments (so much so that Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, proposes himself as a mediator in the conflict).

The Jews of Kiev, moreover, carry on their shoulders one of the heavy memories linked to the Shoah: the bombings of recent months have also touched the monument dedicated to the 33 thousand victims of Babin Yar, site of one of the worst Nazi massacres. Russian artillery also hit synagogues in Kharkiv, where the historic choir was hit, and in Mariupol. The escape of Rabbi Goldschmith who never personally named Putin in his denunciations, but openly called for an end to the invasion – only the loudest.

Also large part of the Russian community, about half a million Jews, is thinking of imitating Ukrainian Jews and following the same path. Silently quiet, sniffing wretched air, many are leaving.


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