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Russian Chief Rabbi Alarmed by Treatment of Chabad Representatives

by Baila Olidort – Lubavitch.com

In an urgent letter to Sweden’s government officials, Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar expressed “grave concern” for the wellbeing of Sweden’s Chabad emissaries, Rabbi Alexander and Leah Namdar, and their family.

Lazar wrote the letter to Sweden’s ambassador to Russia after learning that the Namdars, who have raised their family of 11 in Gothenburg, were fined €73,000 as a penalty for homeschooling their children. The Namdars have been serving Gothenburg’s Jewish community for the past 27 years.

“Sweden has until recently been known as a liberal, democratic society that respects individuality and freedom of religion,” Lazar wrote. He pointed to Sweden’s law that permits homeschooling in special circumstances. “It is alarming therefore that the appeals court has not considered their religious concerns and the security aspect at all.” He cited an attack on a local synagogue by young Muslims last December.

The latest development in a saga that has been unfolding over years, the Namdars have been relentlessly pursued by the local government over the Jewish education they’ve provided their children. For both religious reasons and security concerns they have chosen to homeschool their children. Namdar would not rule out anti-Semitism, telling lubavitch.com that “this preposterous fine has shown Sweden to be a very inhospitable place.”
Rabbi Alexander and Leah Namdar outside the courthouse

As long as there are Jews in Gothenburg who depend on their services, they plan to stay put, committed to their life calling as Chabad emissaries. Their children speak four languages and enjoy the benefits of an excellent education. “We are passionate about education, and our children have the benefit of a full program of standard studies, in addition to a rich Jewish education. This is not available to them in the city’s schools, where they would be at a real risk in an environment that is hostile to Jewish people, particularly those who are readily identifiable.”

The Namdars have lost their case in the lower and middle courts where they sought to have the hefty fine, the equivalent of a $84,000.00, rescinded. They are now awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court. What hangs in the balance, says Leah, is “whether Sweden will allow religious freedom and ensure the protection of its citizens.”

At Chabad-Lubavitch International Headquarters in New York, Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky said, “We take this matter very seriously. We are reviewing our options.”

10 Comments

  • 1. Very nice what about his own? wrote:

    Would/did he write such a letter on behalf of the shluchim who are being kicked out of Russia on fake charges?

    Reply
  • 2. Fix Russia First!! wrote:

    when I read this headline “Russian Chief Rabbi Alarmed by Treatment of Chabad Representatives” I honestly thought this was about the many Chabad Shluchim who were recently KICKED OUT of RUSSIA (not fined, but exiled!!) without hearing a peep in protest.

    Whatever happened with that?

    Where’s the outrage?

    Reply
  • 5. Typical wrote:

    This is just like the Russians, they make gross violations wherever they want ( Georgia, Ukraine, USA etc.) and then complain about everyone elses minor violations. He is worried about a fine given to a shliach but is selent when 10 Shluchim are kicked out of Russian on ridiculous charges.

    Reply
  • 6. morosow wrote:

    Dear R. morosow you really didn’t expect what happened? this is simply following with history. wasn’t your great grandfather murdered? wasn’t your grandfather expelled / fled from Russia? and you really expected different?

    Reply
  • 7. Restraint & Respect wrote:

    It is supersizing to see people who are quick to post about potently sensitive matters in a open forum

    also before criticizing a Rabbi who does a great deal for Yiddishkeit we should each look at ourselves to see what more we can do

    hatzlocho

    Reply
  • 8. Ezra wrote:

    It used to be a fact that “chassidim zainen klug” (chassidim are smart). To judge by the comments above, that may not be the case…

    Think for just a second. If R. Lazar publicly criticizes Russia’s treatment of the shluchim, is Putin likely to say, “You’re right, I’ll stop it”? Or is he more likely to double down, maybe even expel R. Lazar himself and destroy all of the work of the shluchim there? Quiet diplomacy, out of the limelight, is often more effective when dealing with dictators, as indeed the Rebbe himself said numerous times in the 1960s and ’70s about mass protests against the Soviet Union vs. negotiations behind the scenes.

    Reply
  • 9. Deportation wrote:

    How many shluchim in Russia were deported or are facing deportation?this is even worst.At least the shluchim in Sweeden can stay in their shlichus place
    I would like to see these public letters directed also to the authorities in Russia asking to stop deportations

    Reply
  • 10. Andrea Schonberger wrote:

    Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar standing next to Putin baby doesn’t exactly reassure me.

    Reply

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