Moscow ‘surprised’ at Report of Rabbinate Offer to Israeli Rabbi

Jewish community leaders in Moscow have expressed surprise at reports that Dr. Zvi Harkavy, a rabbi who is director of the Israel Chief Rabbinate Library in Jerusalem, had been approached by the Soviet authorities on the possibility that he serve as Chief Rabbi of the USSR, a post that has never existed before, even in Czarist times, it was reported here today in dispatches from the Soviet capital.

Dr. Harkavy said yesterday in Jerusalem that the proposal was first broached three years ago in a meeting between a leading Soviet diplomat and Rabbi Isser Yehuda Unterman, now Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, and was again raised in subsequent meetings with Soviet diplomats. Among those who expressed surprise at the reports was Moscow’s Chief Rabbi Yehuda Leib Levin who recalled meeting Dr. Harkavy several years ago but said that he did not remember discussing any such appointment with him.

(The New York Herald Tribune reported from Jerusalem today that Israel’s Foreign Ministry denied any knowledge of the offer, describing it as “sheer nonsense.” Chief Rabbi Unterman also denied ever having heard anything about it. Despite the denials, Dr. Harkavy was reported to have stood firmly by his story.)

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