Controversy Develops over Who Will Succeed the Late Chief Moscow Rabbi

A controversy has developed in the Jewish community in Moscow over a successor to the late Chief Rabbi Yehuda Leib Levin of the Choral Synagogue who died Nov. 17, Jewish sources in the Soviet Union reported today. The committee of synagogue elders which have some say, though by no means the final one, in the selection of a new rabbi, is opposed to the most likely candidate, Rabbi Schwarzblat of Odessa.

Rabbi Schwarzblat is almost 60 years old and is the youngest rabbi in Russia. Among the other possible candidates, the rabbi of Kuibishev is 80 and the rabbi of Leningrad almost 90. But Rabbi Schwarzblat has been writing anti-Israel articles in the Soviet press. Moscow Jews recall that he denounced Israel as an aggressor after the Six-Day War.

The late Rabbi Levin’s title of Chief Rabbi was not an official one but derived from the fact that he was rabbi of the largest synagogue in the Soviet capital. The synagogue committee is said to prefer a successor who can act with authority as a supervisor of kashrut and an organizer of prayers and services rather than an ordained rabbi not to their liking. Another candidate described as a “completely non-political person” has been mentioned but his name has not been released.

Jewish sources reported that Moti Lipschitz, Moscow’s shochet (ritual slaughterer) is preparing to go to Israel. When he leaves, Moscow Jews who observe the kashrut laws will be left without a shochet.

NEXT STORY