Removal of the fifth paragraph
(nationality line) from Russian internal passports (identity cards)
will deepen the Jewish identity crisis
affecting Russian Jewry, said Dr. Chlenov. He believes that Reform
and Conservative Judaism could
be very helpful in alleviating this problem. He said that Russian
Jewry has a deep need for spirituality (духовность)
that is not currently being addressed through Orthodox Judaism.
Some Jews within the intelligentsia find certain intellectual
groups within Russian Orthodox Christianity attractive.
21. Sharing space with the Vaad in the Shalom Theater premises
is MEOD (Moscow Jewish Community
Home or Московский
a district community facility. Irina
Scherban, Director of MEOD, explained that the organization
sponsors a children's choir, children's art club, an ulpan, Shabbat
evenings for families, a women's club, activties for senior adults,
lectures, a Jewish library, a monthly newspaper, and other programs.
The facility is quite small, but is currently renovating some
unused space so that its programs can be expanded. It receives
support from both REK and JDC.
22. Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt,
a native of Switzerland, is Chief Rabbi of Moscow. Originally
funded by Aguda, he is now identified with a broader, more accommodating
philosophy. Rabbi Goldschmidt has assisted different Sephardic
Jewish population groups in Moscow in engaging rabbis from their
own traditions and has welcomed the Reform movement into the Russian
Jewish religious umbrella group, the Congress of Jewish Religious
Communities and Organizations of Russia. When he was unable to
attract young people to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services
at his own synagogue, he asked Moscow Hillel and JDC to organize
services of a more liberal nature and arranged for the auditorium
at the (Orthodox) Etz Chaim School to be available for these observances.
Rabbi Goldschmidt has offices in the large and recently restored
Moscow Choral Synagogue on Spasoglinichevsky Lane (Archipov Street).
A Jewish community center will be constructed on land directly
across the street from the Choral Synagogue.
As noted immediately above and in an earlier section of this
report (see page 3), Rabbi Goldschmidt attempts to address the
needs of diverse Jewish population groups within the Russian capital.
In discussing characteristics of Ashkenazi families, he observed
that many such families were dysfunctional. Divorce is easy and
cheap in Russia; one can change spouses "as easily as one
can change shirts". Alimony and child support arrangements
are rarely enforced, leaving many single-parent families in serious
Sephardic Jews, said Rabbi Goldschmidt, also have extramarital
affairs, but they are less likely to divorce.
Rabbi Goldschmidt said that the new Jewish
community center to be built across the street is designed
to attract middle-class Jews. The Jewish "business elite"
participate in the Jewish community through the Russian Jewish
Congress and independent philanthropic initiatives, and the Jewish
welfare population is served by JDC and other organizations. The
JCC will offer services to the nascent middle class in the same
way that American JCCs serve middle class American Jews. Rabbi
Goldschmidt suggested that among the services available at the
new JCC would be: sports programs, day care, an alcoholics anonymous
group and other support programs, and job training and employment
Rabbi Goldschmidt acknowledged that Christian
missionary groups in Moscow are targeting Jews. Missionary
activity is related to assimilation and the confusion many Jews
feel about their own identity, he said. He noted that some Jewish
girls wear necklaces with crosses because it is fashionable to
do so; when questioned, they seem oblivious to the significance
of their "fashion statements". Christian missionary
activity and the larger assimilation problem can be addressed
only through a positive information campaign about [the joys of]
Among his goals, said Rabbi Goldschmidt, is the creation of about
40 synagogues in and around
Moscow. KEROOR (the Congress of Jewish Religious Communities and
Organizations of Russia) will be instrumental in developing such
institutions so that their independence from foreign influence
will be assured. In general, local
organizations are less dogmatic than foreign groups and
they are not burdened by a history of rivalry and turf battles.
Local leaders are more pragmatic than many officials of foreign-based
institutions. Rabbi Goldschmidt believes that, within ten years,
REK will be very successful in filling Moscow Jewish community
needs, except for the extraordinary needs of the elderly, which
still will require outside support.
Rabbi Goldschmidt anticipates organizing a home
for disadvantaged Jewish children in the very near future.
Residents of such a home will include orphans, street children,
and children from dysfunctional families. He hopes that an appropriate
facility can be developed near the synagogue and the future JCC.
Initially, he hopes to accommodate between 40 and 60 youngsters.
A family in New York has expressed interest in supporting such
a project. Rabbi Goldschmidt is aware of residential programs
for Jewish children that exist in Ukraine (Dnipropetrovsk, Odessa,
23. Rabbi Adolf Shayevich
is Chief Rabbi of Russia. Rabbi
Shayevich's Russian origins -- he was born in Birobidzhan -- are
said to be an important factor in his appointment as Chief Rabbi
of Russia. KEROOR and the city of Moscow tendered a gala event
for Rabbi Shayevich in late November on the occasion of his sixtieth
birthday. Held at The Great Hall
of the Mayor of Moscow, the first part of the event included
singing by several Jewish ensembles, including children's groups;
speeches in tribute by representatives of numerous Jewish organizations,
civic dignitaries, and representatives of Christian and Moslem
communities; and the presentation of gifts, including many procla-mations,
in his honor. Following the official ceremony, a reception was
held for selected guests.
24. Rabbi Berl Lazar is the chief rabbi for Chabad in Moscow.
Chabad operations in the Russian capital include two synagogues
(Marina Roscha district and Bolshaya Bronnaya Street), schools,
a yeshiva, children's and youth clubs, welfare services, and other
activities. Rabbi Lazar was interviewed at the Marina Roscha synagogue,
a building of recent construction that was nonetheless undergoing
massive renovation due to settling.