Special to the JTA After 22 Years, Riga Will Soon Have Its Own Rabbi

After 22 years without a spiritual leader, the Jewish community of Riga in the Soviet Union will soon have its own rabbi, a native of the city who has just been ordained in Budapest. The newly ordained rabbi is 30-year-old Menachem Nidel who completed seven years of studies at the Rabbinical Seminary in the Hungarian capital.

He was ordained on March 20 and is scheduled to start his service in Riga at the beginning of June, He is the second Soviet Jew to graduate from the seminary, since 1974, the year the Soviet and the Hungarians reached an agreement enabling young Soviet Jews to study at the seminary. The first to be ordained as a rabbi was Adolf Shayevich, who graduated in 1981 and is now Moscow’s Associate Rabbi.

According to Rabbi Arthur Schneier, spiritual leader of Park East Synagogue in New York and also president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, who was invited by Hungary’s Minister of Religious Affairs, Imre Miklos, to take part in the ordination ceremony of Rabbi Nidel, the ceremony was attended by Miklos himself and a high-ranking official of the Soviet Embassy in Budapest.

Schneier said he was invited to the ceremony because he helped negotiate the agreement allowing Soviet Jews to study at the Rabbinical seminary in 1974. Schneier described Nidel as a very learned young man who speaks several languages, including Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian and Latvian. He said Nidel is married and has two children.

“One of the gravest problems for Jews in the Soviet Union is the lack of rabbinical leadership” Schneier said in a special interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “The ordination of Nidel, is, therefore, a major event and contributes to the solution to strengthen the spiritual leadership of Soviet Jewry. ” He said that presently there are 16 students at the Rabbinical Seminary, two of them from the Soviet Union and the rest from other East European countries.

According to Schneier, two Soviet students will complete their studies in a few years and then will go back to serve in Jewish communities in the Soviet Union, The average time required to obtain a rabbinical degree at the seminary is seven years, Schneier said.

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