Rabbi Arrested in Belarus

An American rabbi who once held a title of chief rabbi of Belarus spent a day behind the bars in Belarus last week for allegedly trying to smuggle valuable Hebrew books out of the former Soviet republic.

Rabbi Velvl Tabak was arrested on Wednesday and released on bail the following day, according to Yuri Dorn, the chairman of the synagogue where Tabak used to officiate.

Tabak held the title of Belarussian chief rabbi in 1995 and 1996. While leaving the Belarussian capital of Minsk last April, he was prevented by customs authorities from taking out of the country several 18th-century Hebrew books he acquired in Belarus.

An investigation into smuggling was started at that time. Last week was the first time he had visited Belarus since last then.

The charges brought against the rabbi were not dismissed after his release, Dorn said in a telephone interview from Minsk.

The arrest of Tabak generated reports on Belarus national television, which identified the detained rabbi as an American citizen, but did not mention his title.

After his release, Tabak, who is not being permitted by the country’s authorities to leave Belarus, remained in Minsk.

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