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Moscow's chief rabbi, now in exile, says war has been 'a catastrophe' for Jews in Ukraine

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Man in Odessa synagogue
A Jewish faithful prays in the Chabad Synagogue in Odessa on March 9, 2022.BULENT KILIC/AFP via Getty Images
  • Pinchas Goldschmidt is Moscow's chief rabbi and president of the Conference of European Rabbis.

  • Rabbi Goldschmidt said the war in Ukraine has been "a catastrophe" for Jews.

  • Rabbi Goldscmidt left Russia after the war began and said he has been advised not to return for now.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been disastrous for Jews, according to the chief rabbi of Moscow.

"It's a catastrophe," Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt said earlier this month at a gathering of the Conference of European Rabbis in Munich, The Times reported. "Our colleagues who built up Jewish communities in Ukraine for the last 30 years gave their lives [to that purpose] and they left very comfortable places like the United States and Israel."

As Insider has reported, Russia's war — initially sold on the basis of "de-Nazification" — has forced many Jews to flee Ukraine, including the chief rabbi of Odesa and residents of a Jewish orphanage in the port city, which continues to be threatened by the Russian military.

As many as 400,000 Jews lived in Ukraine prior to the Feb. 24 invasion, according to the European Jewish Congress.

Goldschmidt said most have now fled.

"[A]ll their work building synagogues, building schools, building all of this, they had to leave it with a little suitcase," he told The Times, adding that he himself has been advised by friends not to return to Russia for the time being.

On Twitter, Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, a journalist married to Goldschmidt's son Benjamin, said her father-in-law had been pressured by Russian authorities to support the invasion of Ukraine but that he had "refused." In March, she said, he and his wife flew to Hungary and "are now in exile from the community they loved."

This comes after Goldschmidt was recently reelected ee as Moscow's chief rabbi for another seven-year term, The Jerusalem Post reported. In the position, Goldschmidt is the formal head of Moscow's Jewish community, which numbers around 100,000 people, per the Institute for Jewish Policy Research.

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