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Appeal Denied, Rabbi of Russia’s Primorye Region To Be Deported

By , Chabad Lubavitch Headquarters

(  A Russian district court on Wednesday, February 25, overturned an appeal and upheld its ruling to expel Rabbi Yisroel Silberstein, a U.S. citizen from Russia where he was serving the Primorye region's Jewish community.

The Vladivostok district court’s original decision on Februrary 12th stated that Silberstein applied and received his most recent visa 10 weeks ago for cultural activities, inconsistent with the religious work he was actually performing in Russia.

According to a Federal Migration Service spokesman, Silberstein should have written “religious activities” as his intended purpose on the visa, the third of his 2½ year tenure.

A native of Brooklyn, Rabbi Silberstein told he flew from Vladivostok to Moscow after the decision and would be flying to New York on Wednesday night.

In a statement issued by Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia director Alexander (Sasha) Boroda, the decision was deplored as being part of a “dangerous trend in the region” which included the deportation of Chief Rabbi of Rostov-on-Don Eliyashiv Kaplun in 2003 and the blatant use of the migration service “to deny work visas for spiritual leaders.”

“The Jewish community is outraged at these policies which target Jewish spiritual workers who are foreign citizens. This trend could significantly redraw the map of faith-based work in Russia, making it extremely difficult to perform spiritual work on behalf of the Jewish community,” said Boroda.

He said that historical Soviet efforts to suppress Judaism and deny them opportunities for  religious instruction and to develop their own community rabbis, makes it necessary to import foreign clergy today. 

“Our extensive efforts since the fall of the Soviet Union have not been sufficient to overcome the devastation and train a new generation of rabbis. The Jewish community in Russia had to resort to inviting rabbis from abroad because only they have sufficient training for the position.”

The statement challenged the judgment as being illogical “since the execution of rabbinical duties includes cultural, educational and outreach activities.” Claiming that the work of a rabbi falls within the definition of “cultural activities”, Boroda called upon federal authorities to review their policies and decisions with respect to the Jewish community.

A spokesman for the Federation, Boruch Gorin, told that the decision would be appealed with “higher judicial authorities” and “will not go away quietly.”

In bringing attention to an apparent anti-Semitic pattern of government behavior, the statement suggested reviewing the November 10th incident in which an attacker robbed Rabbi Silberstein in central Vladivostok, hitting him in the head and fleeing with his bag and laptop computer. The rabbi was hospitalized with a concussion. A local police investigation rejected anti-Semitism as motivation.

The Federation statement praised the dedicated and hard work of foreign rabbis in Russia on behalf of the Jewish community “engaging in the spiritual upbringing and education of Jews in Russia who had been distanced from their religious traditions and spiritual roots.”

“Now the Jews of Primorye are without their rabbi.”


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