MOSCOW (Apr. 21)
Russia has deported an Australian-born rabbi on charges of violating visa rules.
Last week, a court in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don issued a deportation warrant for Rabbi Elyashuv Kaplun, saying he failed to extend his business visa, which allowed him to live and work in Russia.
As chief rabbi of Rostov and southern Russia, Kaplun, an Israeli citizen, has served the 10,000-strong Jewish community for 10 years.
He has worked in Russia at the invitation of the local Jewish religious community, which is affiliated with the Federation of Jewish Communities, a Lubavitch-led umbrella organization.
Federation officials were unavailable for comment because of Passover.
Russian visa regulations require foreign workers, including those with religious and humanitarian groups, to get visa extensions every year.
Boris Zeidman, chairman of the Rostov community, told JTA in a telephone interview that the situation resulted from an “oversight” on the part of Jewish community officials, who failed to extend the rabbi’s visa on time.
The local immigration office warned Kaplun of his visa expiration on March 18.
An anonymous source familiar with the situation said the rabbi was deported because of a personal conflict with a powerful local Muslim cleric known for his good relations with the authorities.
Kaplun left Rostov-on-Don on Sunday with his wife and three children on a flight for Tel Aviv.
“He left with minimal luggage. We are hoping he will return soon after we have the situation resolved,” said Zeidman, who also noted the court ruling was a blow to the community, particularly because it left local Jews without a rabbi in the middle of Passover.
But the community is trying “to keep everything running as before,” he said.
In October, Kaplun and his family were detained at the Rostov airport upon arrival from Israel and held at the airport hotel awaiting deportation for allegedly holding invalid entry papers. Kaplun insisted he had a valid visa.
The three-day crisis was resolved after the Russian presidential administration got involved, but Jewish officials said immigration officials never explained the incident.