Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar has come out criticizing Ukraine’s Jewish leadership for condemning Moscow’s actions in Crimea, JTA reports. We know how Lazar, a longtime friend of Putin’s, feels about the hostile take-over of Crimea, evidence by his vigorous clapping during last week’s annexation ceremony. But the Chabad rabbi took things a step further, insisting that all Jewish leadership share his approval of Putin’s actions.
“The Jewish community should not be the one sending messages to President Barack Obama about his policy or to President Putin or to any other leader,” Lazar said Monday in an interview. “I think it’s the wrong attitude.”
Lazar also criticized Jewish Ukrainians for involving themselves in issues that don’t directly concern their community. At the same time, Lazar said he was concerned about anti-Semitism in Ukraine under its interim government, which was one of the reasons Putin gave as justification for the troop mobilization.
It seems everyone is getting the chance to weigh in on whether they are actually under threat from ultra-violent neo-Nazis—everyone, it seems, but the Jews of Ukraine themselves. Indeed, Lazar was responding to an open letter penned by Ukrainian Jews to Putin—published in a full-page ad in today’s New York Times—in which they wrote:
We do not believe that you are easy to fool. You consciously pick and choose lies and slander from the massive amount of information about Ukraine. And you know very well that Victor Yanukovich’s statement concerning the time after the latest treaty had been signed that “…Kyiv is full of armed people who have begun to trash buildings, places of worship, churches. Innocent people have begun to suffer. People have simply been robbed and killed in the street…” are lies, from the first word to the very last.
You can read the full letter here.
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Batya Ungar-Sargon is a freelance writer who lives in New York. Her Twitter feed is @bungarsargon.