Berel Lazar, one of Russia’s two chief rabbis and a key ally of President Vladimir Putin, has offered to pay for the reburial in Israel of a Russian Jewish soldier. The remains of Sergeant Elena Varshavskaya, a medic who the Russian government says died during the liberation of the Estonian capital of Tallinn in 1944, are buried along with several others in a grave beneath a postwar Soviet statue that has been at the center of a major political row between the two countries.The decision to move the bronze statue on April 29 sparked the worst riots in Tallinn’s post-Soviet history, with hundreds wounded and one killed. In an interview with the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily newspaper, Varshavskaya’s brother, who holds dual Israeli-Russian citizenship, said Lazar has personally spoken with the Foreign Ministry about identifying the remains and organizing their transfer to Israel.Whether or not Varshavskaya in fact died in the battle for Tallinn is still debated, with some Soviet records showing that she died in a car crash.According to Interfax, the re-burial is “expected to be conducted according to Jewish traditions,” possibly by Lazar himself.It remains unclear why Lazar made the offer to move the remains of Varshavskaya to Israel. Under Soviet rule, tens of thousands of Jews were improperly buried according to Jewish law.
Rabbi offers to rebury soldier in Israel