The Russian Justice Ministry on Saturday designated Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the former chief rabbi of Moscow and the president of the Conference of European Rabbis as a foreign agent, following an interview in Israel Hayom in which he came out against the invasion of Ukraine.
The Ministry announced that “Goldschmidt spread false information about decisions made by the public authorities of the Russian Federation and their policies. He opposed the special operation in Ukraine.”
Rabbi Goldschmidt said in response that he was “proud to be on the right side of history and to join a distinguished list of people who oppose this terrible war that has exacted a terrible blood price of hundreds of thousands. If I am a foreign agent, then, since I am God’s agent and doer of His will, their next step should probably be to declare Him as a foreign element.”
Rabbi Goldschmidt and his wife left Russia for Hungary in March 2022, refusing to publicly support the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The news of his escape was initially denied by senior officials of the Moscow Jewish community, including the Choral Synagogue, which in June 2022 reelected him as Chief Rabbi of Moscow.
Goldschmidt attended the opening ceremony for the Conference of European Rabbis in Munich on May 30, 2022, where he attacked. At the time he had already relocated to Israel.
Last Friday, Rabbi Goldschmidt told Israel Hayom: “I went to bed on February 23, the eve of the war, and the next day I woke up and realized that I was in a completely different country, with different laws and different rules. In the USSR, they didn’t let the Jews live according to their faith, and they didn’t let them decide where they wanted to live – and suddenly I saw these laws renewing in today’s Russia.”
“If a person criticizes the war, he could be imprisoned for 15 years, and the rest of the things that were more or less independent of the state – have been closed. Day by day in Russia, I saw more and more arrests of people who oppose the war, I saw pictures of people going out into the streets and being arrested – grandmothers and grandfathers who are arrested without trial. These are extremely difficult scenes, as in the dark times.”
The Swiss-born Rabbi Goldschmidt, 59, arrived in Russia in 1989 and worked at re-establishing Jewish communal life there after the fall of the Soviet Empire, including schools, a rabbinical court, a burial society, kosher soup kitchens, rabbinical schools, and a political community organization that elected him Chief Rabbi of Moscow in 1993.
Goldschmidt told Israel Hayom: “For 30 years I nurtured and protected the Jewish community in Moscow, no order will prevent me from doing so even now. Russia has changed its face for the worse, this is the first time since the beginning of hostilities that a religious leader is declared a foreign agent and defined by the Russian government as a hostile entity. This may be very much the start of a new antisemitic campaign against the Jewish community. In the past, I have called on the Jewish community to leave the country, before it is too late.”