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Friday, March 24, 2023

Former Chief Rabbi of Moscow Says FSB Tried to Recruit Him

Former Chief Rabbi of Moscow Pinchas Goldschmidt, who left Russia after the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine, said the FSB tried to recruit him in the early 2000s. writing in a column for foreign policy.

According to Goldschmidt, in the winter of 2003 he went to the police station at the request of an FSB officer assigned to the Choral Synagogue in Moscow. In the article, the representative of the Russian special services is listed as Oleg – it is worth noting that his real name has been changed. According to Goldschmidt, during the conversation, Oleg and his colleague said that the rabbi, as a Swiss citizen and religious figure, had illegally used a multiple-entry business visa to stay in Russia.

“They were willing to turn a blind eye to this issue if I started reporting to them. I was forced to sign something, but flatly refused, saying reporting others is against Jewish law,” he said.

According to the former chief rabbi of Moscow, he was released more than an hour later, but the FSB officer twice tried to convince Goldshmidt. He suggested that a refusal to cooperate with the secret services was the reason for his expulsion from Russia in 2005. The rabbi said he was able to return to the country after the intervention of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Goldshmidt also claims that the FSB also tried to recruit other religious figures. According to him, some leaders of Jewish student organizations were summoned to the Lubyanka.

“I am aware of the FSB’s repeated attempts to recruit my colleagues from the Jewish community. Additionally, agents regularly monitored, visited, and intimidated leaders of religious organizations,” the rabbi wrote in the column. Furthermore, he said that the FSB was involved in the expulsion of 11 rabbis from Russia over the past ten years.

Goldschmidt said he decided to leave Russia two weeks after the start of the military operation in Ukraine. “I realized that I was going to be pressured to support (the military action) and that it would be dangerous to express any disagreement,” he explained.

The first reports of the departure of the former Chief Rabbi of Moscow from Russia appeared in May 2022. Then Goldschmidt explainthat he should be in Israel next to his father, who needs hospital treatment. In June, Goldschmidt left the post of Chief Rabbi of Moscow due to the expiration of his contract. His daughter-in-law, Avital Chizhik-Goldshmidt, said the rabbi left Russia under pressure from authorities, who demanded that he publicly support the military operation in Ukraine. In the Choral Synagogue of Moscow, the departure was called temporary. In December, Goldschmidt urged Jews to leave Russia because of the risk of being “made scapegoats for the difficulties caused by the conflict in Ukraine”.

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