The ever persecuted Jewish people have their own special history in our country. There were tragic incidents in it, and terrible misunderstandings. In the twentieth century more than hundreds of thousands of Jews emigrated from Russia, the revolution, war, and persecution by the Soviet authorities forced people to leave whole families.
The situation changed after the collapse of the USSR, when several Jewish public organizations were established, charity events, congresses of those not indifferent, were held, in 2000, for the first time the chief rabbi of Russia, Berl Lazar, was elected.
This person has represented the interests of the Jewish people in our state for 16 years and in some other CIS countries. His story is not so simple as a spiritual leader, he has to constantly face the problems of morality, politics, he is accustomed to blaming any sins, but they never stop listening and quoting.
Lazar Berl Pinhos was born in 1964 in a family of Hasidic Jews. His father was a rabbi in Milan, in this city at that time was the largest Jewish community in Italy. The boy attended a Jewish school and grew up respecting the traditions of his people. After graduation, Lazar wanted to continue to comprehend the foundations of the Jewish religion, but in Milan there were no such educational institutions. And the young man goes to the United States, where in due time his father also received the title of rabbi.
Long ten years Lazar Berl studied in America. Successfully graduated from college in New Jersey, and then the oldest Jewish university - a yeshiva in New York. After that, he receives the title of rabbi, and also becomes a religious judge.
During his stay in America, Lazar not only studies, but also gets many friends, like-minded people, here he finds a wife, which became the daughter of one of the American rabbis - Hanna Deren. Unlike her husband, she never changed her citizenship. According to Berl Lazar himself, despite the fact that his children were born in Russia, they are still America's lodged, although the head of the family and hopes that his heirs will also love Russia.
Both in words and in deed, the future leader of Russian Jews always follows God's covenants. Berl Lazar, whose family embodies the ideal embodiment of the traditions of Jewish society, consists of 13 children - eight daughters and five sons.
First visit to Russia
In the west, our country was considered the worst for comfortable living of Jews. Especially since many have long been Russified, did not observe the religious customs of their people, they forgot who they are and where they came from. Therefore, some immigrants from America, Israel, Europe came with a certain mission: to revive lost faith in compatriots.
Berl Lazar, whose biography is full of vivid events, considered his first visit to Russia as one of the decisive in his future destiny. He was still a student when he came to Moscow in 1988 on a tourist visa, but not for entertainment purposes. According to some reports, Lazar Berl already on this first visit tried to meet with the leaders of the Jewish community in Russia, lectured on Judaism. Of course, this took place in deep secrecy, the rabbi had to memorize all the addresses and telephones, so that if there were no NKVD officers there were no evidence. Thus, meetings with like-minded people were more like scouts' scouts.
On this first visit, the future chief rabbi of Russia Berl Lazar realized that his heart belongs to this country, even despite the far from democratic attitude to the representatives of his people.
In the United States, he receives the title of rabbi, married and, with the blessing of the leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, returns to Moscow in order to revive the Jewish religion in our country.
In 1990, Lazar Berl became a rabbi in the synagogue in Maryina Roshcha. This place was pleasant to him on the first visit, here there was a relative freedom of communication in comparison with the capital itself. He begins to conduct propaganda among his parishioners, agitating them to remain in Russia, and not to leave for other countries.
As an intelligent man, Lazar understood that it is impossible to revive the Jewish religion again without support from the authorities. His meeting in 1991 with President Boris Yeltsin gave some results, because the newly elected ruler promised to adopt appropriate laws that would facilitate the life of the Jews.
In subsequent years, Lazar continues to lead influential friends, his name is often associated with Boris Berezovsky and Arkady Abramovich. Although he himself notes that he was acquainted with businessmen only superficially.
Active religious and social activities distinguish Berl Lazar among the rest, so in 1993 he was elected representative of the Union of Rabbis of the CIS countries. The organization's activities were not limited to solutions to religious issues, together with its leader, they founded the charitable foundation "Or-Avner Khabad-Lubavitch".
A special feature of the Jewish people is the help to all compatriots, whether this is a plight in the family or the desire to realize the idea of own business. The charity fund, which was founded by Lazar Berl, introduced this tradition in Russia too.
In the late 90's, the Congress of the Jewish Religious Organization was held annually, in the first Lazar participated, but later refused to attend these events because of disagreement with participation in the Congress of reformists. Berl Lazar himself continued to be a Hasidim, wrote books on this subject, gave lectures.
The First Steps to the Unification of Russian Jews
In 1998, there was a need for official registration of religious communities at the legislative level. Almost all Jewish families from different cities of the country have united in the FEOR (Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia). In the opinion of observers, Berezovsky and Abramovich were behind this organization, who saw in such an association not so much a settlement of a religious issue as a way to invest their finances well.
Despite some, sometimes even scandalous disagreements with some heads of Jewish communities, it is the FEOR that becomes the central organization. According to some sources, she was helped by contacts with the most influential businessmen of the country and well-known politicians. At the first congress, the leader is unanimously elected - Berl Lazar became him.
However, not all immediately recognized Lazar's leading position. In parallel with FEOR, other similar organizations existed on the territory of Russia. They criticized the activities of the new leader, for example, categorically disagreed with his ideology of the inheritance of the national trait on the female line, when a Jew could be considered a Jew only by his mother. To which Berl Lazar responded with quotations from the Torah, which confirmed this law, which has existed for several thousand years. But there is a reason for this lack of understanding of the foundations of Judaism in our country. Over the decades of detachment of Russian Jews from Israel, some of the foundations of religion were lost and forgotten. As Berl Lazar notes, children born not from a Jewish mother could not be considered Jews.
In general, this person in matters of rules remained always firm, because, probably, he so successfully succeeded simultaneously with the role of leader and fulfill the duties of religious judge. This duty - to solve the most diverse problems of ordinary people, - Lazar called not the easiest task, but also noted that the coming to him married couples who want to divorce, in almost 80 percent of cases change their mind after talking with him.
Chief Rabbi of Russia
Until 2000, there was still no official representative of the Jewish faith in our country. The need for this was felt more and more. Becoming chairman of the FEOR, Berl Lazar already understood and saw his next role and the ways of achieving it. He was able to enlist the support of a majority of the votes of Jewish communities, met with the future president of the Russian Federation, with whom he discussed the further plan for the development of the religion of Judaism in the country.
For his part, he tried to become as close to the Russians as possible, having mastered the language perfectly, and eventually becoming a citizen of the Russian Federation, though, while retaining the US passport.
All this work led to the fact that in June 2000 the chief rabbi of the Russian Federation was elected at the congress of communities in Moscow. They became Berl Lazar, and the decision was taken by all delegates unanimously.
Immediately after the announcement of the results, dissenters appeared. In particular, Adolf Shaevich, who still considers himself a true leader of Jewish communities, spoke categorically against Lazar, explaining this by the fact that more than half of the voters did not have Russian citizenship at all.
The chief rabbi did not respond to all these attacks, but immediately proceeded directly to work.
Activities as a spiritual leader
A month after the election Berl Lazar makes a number of trips around Russia. So, after visiting Nizhny Novgorod, he negotiates with the governor about the construction of a community center, a whole complex, including sports sections, including a swimming pool, as well as all kinds of entertainment zones.
The scale of the ideas of the new leader became evident in September, when the Moscow Community Center was opened in Maryina Roshcha. At the celebration were the first persons of the state, and especially the guest of honor - Vladimir Putin. Many immediately saw this as an official endorsement by the authorities of the election of the Chief Rabbi.
In the period from 2000 to 2001, Ben Lazar managed to visit dozens of regions of the country. He met with the President of the Republic of Tatarstan Mintimer Shaimiev, the governor of Vladivostok, Saratov, Krasnoyarsk, established contacts with the leadership and promoted the idea of developing Jewish communities throughout the country.
Rabbi and great politics
It seemed strange to many that the future chief rabbi, Berl Lazar, did not attend the inauguration of President Vladimir Putin. Citizenship, and therefore, the opportunity to participate in this kind of event, he received only a few weeks later, which is the main reason.
With the president of the country, the chief rabbi will meet again more than once in the official atmosphere, and for personal conversation. And in 2001 Lazar became a member of the Council under the President of the Russian Federation for relations with religious organizations of the country. In general, Berl Lazar and Putin could always find a common language, Vladimir Vladimirovich did not want to lose contact with a representative of the group of the most influential businessmen of the country and the world.
The result of the favor of the ruling party towards the activities of the Hasidic Jews in Russia are the awards of the chief rabbi, which he himself was given by the president himself. In 2014, Berl Lazar received the Order of Merit for the Fatherland of the IV degree. This high award was preceded by other recognition - the Order of Friendship, the Minin and Pozharsky Prize, Peter the Great, and Lazar's struggle for the patriotic education of youth in Russia.
He never stopped making proposals to simplify the life of the Jews. So, he achieved the cancellation of examinations in schools and other educational institutions on Saturdays for children from Jewish families. Even more loudly was his call to the US government, which he asked to review and abolish the Jackson-Vanik amendment that restricts entry to the United States of America for some citizens of the USSR, and later Russia.
Berl Lazar is now an active participant in all sorts of political events, and at the EU summit he called on the head of the European Commission to unite forces in the fight against nationalist ideas in the world.
Evaluation of activities
The chief rabbi of the country is used to giving interviews, responding to comments, while traveling in Russia, he always gathers a crowd. You can not do without scandals. During speeches at congresses of rabbis from different countries, he repeatedly claimed that the Jewish community in Russia is flourishing, the people of the Jewish faith no longer flee the country, the Jews are no longer threatened. What caused surprise and discontent among journalists, what does Berl Lazar play? Quotes about his lack of anti-Semitism seem, at least, unreliable, especially after the explosion in 2002 on the Kiev highway, the pillaging of the Jewish cemetery or the beating of Rabbi David Yushhevayev.
Simple observers began to notice that such excessive patriotism, admiration of the government, as well as the ongoing policy of improving life only for the elected, that is Jews, worsen the relations between our two nations, provoking the emergence of even more anti-Semitic organizations.
However, he tries to include the main thoughts, future plans and possible advice in his lectures. Lazar always spoke rather harshly towards representatives of sexual minorities, did not recognize their desire to stand out and declare themselves and their inclinations to the whole world, and was glad that in Russia both the government and the people are also unequivocally against this phenomenon in society.
Sometimes the chief rabbi of Russia behaves like a true politician, telling people what they want to hear. Perhaps, only in literary works he expressed with a greater degree of sincerity. In 2013, a limited edition of the book was published in Israel by Berl Lazar. "Jewish Russia", the so-called this work, is still the subject of controversy and harsh criticism. What thoughts in it really belong to Lazar, and what exactly is an invention is not so easy to determine.
Chief Rabbi of Russia
The name of this person has been heard for more than 15 years in Russia. Berl Lazar, whose biography, his merits - the result of perseverance in defending his views, really deserves respect. The fact that in the 90s of the twentieth century he came to Russia, although he could choose any economically developed country, speaks of his courage, as well as of foresight, too.
Whatever the attitude of the Russians towards the representatives of the chosen people, there are qualities in this nation that help them achieve success. They are always united, sincerely believe in themselves, because among Jews there are so many businessmen, politicians and intellectuals in general.
So Berl Lazar stayed in Russia to revive the religious feelings of his compatriots. And he successfully succeeded.
To date, the chief rabbi of the Russian Federation has directly participated in the construction and opening of dozens of gardens, schools, a sports complex for Jews, under his spiritual leadership, rabbis and synagogues work in more than three hundred cities of Russia and the CIS.