US Chabad rabbi loses appeal against deportation from Russia

Local Lubavitch leader calls it a ‘dark day’ for Jews as emissary in Sochi deemed threat to national security

March 29, 2017
Ari Edelkopf and wife Chana in 2009 in Sochi, Russia. (Courtesy of Federation of Jewish Communities)

Ari Edelkopf and wife Chana in 2009 in Sochi, Russia. (Courtesy of Federation of Jewish Communities)

A Russian appeals court affirmed an expulsion order issued against an American rabbi working in Sochi, in what a local leader of the Chabad movement called a “dark day” for Jews.

In its ruling Tuesday against Ari Edelkopf, the Krasnodar Court of Appeals accepted the determination of a Sochi tribunal that Edelkopf, who had been working as Chabad’s emissary to the city, was a threat to national security. Edelkopf now has no further legal recourse and is legally obligated to leave the country in the near future, Interfax reported.

Boruch Gorin, a senior spokesperson for Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, condemned the ruling Tuesday as “hostile.” For the first time “in the modern history of Russia, a rabbi is declared a ‘threat to national security,’” Gorin wrote on Facebook, adding that authorities have refused to divulge any details about the alleged threat, citing laws on state secrets. Gorin told Interfax the ruling was “Kafakesque” and “grounds for lawlessness.”

Tuesday was “a dark day in the history of the Jews in Russia,” Gorin wrote on Facebook.

Edelkopf, a father of seven who grew up in the United States and lived in Israel before settling in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, has denied engaging in any activity that can reasonably be considered unsavory to authorities.

The deportation comes amid a Russian crackdown on organizations with foreign funding. Edelkopf’s permit to be in the country was revoked in December, according to Interfax. He lost an appeal in regional court.

The Chabad-affiliated Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia condemned the deportation order when it was first issued. Gorin told the French news agency AFP that this was “far from an isolated incident.” He added that at least seven rabbis have been forced to leave Russia in recent years for alleged immigration violations.

Gorin said this was “an attempt to establish control” over Jewish communities in Russia, which he said are serviced by some 70 rabbis, about half of whom are foreign.


US embassy in Kiev criticized for praising for Ukrainian nationalist

March 29, 2017 5:34pm

(JTA) — A Ukrainian Jewish leader criticized the U.S. embassy’s praise for a writer who allegedly worked for an anti-Semitic newspaper.

The embassy celebrated the legacy of Olena Teliha Wednesday in a Facebook post that designated her one of the “women who inspire Ukraine” in connection with ‪Women’s History Month in March.

Teliha was an activist for the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, or OUN, which fought during the first half of the 20th century against Soviet domination. Leaders of OUN briefly collaborated with Nazi occupation forces before turning against them. Teliha was executed at the age of 35 at Babi Yar in Kiev, where the Nazis also murdered tens of thousands of Jews.

“Very sad that the U.S. Embassy is posting such stories,” Eduard Dolinsky, the director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, wrote on Facebook in response, adding: “Teliha worked obligingly in the anti-Jewish newspaper ‘Free Ukraine’ that called for the destruction of Jews and venerated Nazism.”

Last month, a monument honoring Teliha was unveiled at Babi Yar despite the Ukrainian Jewish Committee’s objections. The disagreement is part of a larger dispute between some leaders of Ukraine’s fractious Jewish community of 350,000 people and government authorities and historians over the veneration of nationalists from OUN and its military wing, the UPA.

Following a bloody revolution in 2014 that unleashed a wave of nationalist sentiment in Ukraine, the state has celebrated the legacy of various personalities from those groups, including military commanders who are accused of responsibility for the murder of thousands of Jews and Poles.

One such leader was Stepan Bandera, who has a large statue of him in the city of Lviv and streets named after him in several cities, including Kiev. Another is Roman Shukhevych, whom the director of the state-operated Ukrainian National Memory Institute recently praised as “one of five eminent personalities who have changed the course of history.”

Advocates of nationalist leaders like Bandera and Shukhevych claim their vision of Ukraine extended to Jews, some of whom served in UPA’s ranks. Some UPA militants also rescued Jews from the Holocaust.