(JTA) — The chief rabbi of Moscow, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, will succeed the former chief rabbi of France as head of the Conference of European Rabbis.
Goldschmidt was elected president of the rabbinical group at a meeting in London last week and will take over for Rabbi Joseph Hayim Sitruk, who held the post since 1999.
The fourth president in the organization’s 54-year history, Goldschmidt is the first non-Western European to hold the post, according to a news release from the group.
Goldschmidt, the father of seven children, said in a statement that he is honored by the chance to represent hundreds of rabbis across the continent.
"The CER was at the forefront of the rebirth of the Jewish communities after the war and together with my colleagues, I was privileged to witness the miraculous rebirth of the communities of the former Soviet Union," he said. "May the Lord in his will grant me the strength to strengthen the Jewish community in Europe, rise to the challenges presented to us by the ever-changing world."
Goldschmidt was called to Moscow in 1989 by a coalition including the Soviet government, the local Jewish activist movement, the World Jewish Congress and the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.
In Russia, he has established the country’s rabbinical court and collaborated with Israel’s Interior Ministry "to reconfirm Jews who have hidden their Jewish identity during Soviet times," according to the news release.