NEW YORK (Dec. 26)
Moscow refusenik Eliyahu Steingart received permission to emigrate last week, the World Jewish Congress reported.
Steingart first applied to emigrate in 1981. He was refused on the grounds that he may have been exposed to state secrets through his work in mathematics and computers.
Steingart took over as leader of the ba’alei teshuvah (newly religious) group in Moscow when Eliyahu Essas left, according to Elan Steinberg, WJC executive director, who visited him several times. Essas, who for years was the revered leader of Moscow’s Orthodox community, now lives in Israel.
“Much of that group has emigrated, absolutely all of them to Israel. There’s no neshira from that group,” Israel Singer, WJC secretary-general, said, using the term for immigration to countries other than Israel by Jews leaving the Soviet Union on Israeli visas.
“They are Zionists and religious at the same time, with equal fervor. They’re tireless, selfless people,” Singer said. “This doesn’t detract from all the others who have Zionist ties or cultural ties alone, but the unique aspect of this group is that the religious component is so central,” explained Singer, himself an ordained Orthodox rabbi.
He called Steingart “the last of the old Essas Mohicans.”
American visitors say Steingart regularly walked two hours each way between the shul and his house on Shabbat.
Some recall Steingart taking them on a “shortcut” to the Moscow synagogue that was 10 blocks longer–to avoid passing Lubianka prison, where the KGB headquarters is located.