The Jewish community of Simferopol celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year and Yom Kippur, the Day of absolution, together with a new spiritual leader. It was the son of the chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar. About what the Federation of Jewish communities of Russia (FJC) has sent Rabbi Yehezkel LAZAR in the Republic of Crimea, the religious figure said on the phone to the managing editor of “NGR” Andrey MELNIKOV.
– Rav Yehezkel, you will now permanently reside in the Crimea?
– Yes, I now live here with my wife and daughter. We’re staying here until then, until all the Jews leave for Israel, when Moshiach (the Messiah. – “NGR”).
– Crimea has special status in the international community.
Any difficulties in connection with new appointment you had with co-religionists in the United States, Europe, Ukraine?
– Our goals are not political but spiritual. In Simferopol and Crimea are Jews, and they need to organize life in the community. I have friends in the US, and in Ukraine, and they understand it. We understand that the situation in Crimea is complicated. We their attitude expressed so: in order to dispel the darkness we need to light a candle. Sticks to break up the dark impossible. My friends all understand and support.
Clearly, this fellow, but the attitude of politicians and bureaucrats in some countries it may be malevolent? Do not fear any sanctions?
– I hadn’t thought of that. Future is in the hands of the Almighty. We hope that everyone understands that we have no political goals, and the complexities will not be. But if there are any difficulties – we are ready, because you didn’t come here to relax and work to help the Jews. If we wanted an easy life, we would have remained in America or Israel, where everything is good.
In 2014 you have come to the Crimea.
Why did you have to wait for your appointment for three years?
– To become a Rabbi, you need to get training, to “smíchov” (the laying on of hands in spiritual rank. – “NGR”) finally get married. Over the past three years I graduated and got married. I must say, when I first visited the Crimea, I never dreamed that I would receive this appointment. But life is so complicated, and I am very happy.
– Whose decision it is that you should serve in the Crimea?
– City community have long asked for a permanent Rabbi from the chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar. As you know, he’s my father. After 2014 I have several times arrived to Simferopol, and me and my wife really enjoyed the local community and General region. We decided that our goal is not to live well in Israel or in America, and to help the Jewish community, which is waiting for the Rabbi.
Papa decided that you need to go to the Crimea, and you, in accordance with the tradition of honoring the father’s will to fulfill this decision?
– It so happened that my father, the chief Rabbi, but he’s not one decided. Directions for rabbis determines he is not alone, it is the decision of the Federation of Jewish communities of Russia.
– You said you studied these years. Where?
First two years I studied in America, then another year and a half he continued his studies in Israel, because my wife is Israeli. And then I moved here.
For the past three years have you noticed any changes in the local Jewish community?
– I think, not much has changed. That’s good. But there are changes for the better: people are aware that it is necessary to develop the community. Three years ago, people did not realize that we must unite. Recently, we celebrated Rosh Hashanah, and it’s a lot of Jews. I think three years ago parishioners would be less. FJC all this time trying to unite all the Jewish organizations, which are in Simferopol. Before, of course, act Jewish organizations, but by themselves, even celebrated the holidays in their own way. Now we are trying to unite everyone. In three years much has been done together.
– How many people visited a holiday in Simferopol?
– About a hundred people. You probably think that this is enough, but we believe that the population is about 15 thousand Jews, if not more. I walk down the street, and almost every day people approach me, because my appearance is noticeable that I’m a religious Jew. Even, sometimes, turning in Hebrew: it is the Crimeans who ever lived or now live in Israel and for some reason, visited Crimea. They didn’t even know before that the city is a community, a synagogue.
– How did you call: the chief Rabbi of Crimea? Or the Rabbi of Simferopol?
Only Simferopol. We decided to start with Simferopol. There is still a lot of work. Then, hopefully, the FJC will deal with the whole Crimea. Communities in different cities, and there too it is necessary to direct the rabbis, because there are too many Jews.
In plans – to create a Union to structure the Jewish community of the Crimea?
– FJC in many regions have built their community centres. Is there any in Simferopol? – The community center, there is the old synagogue, we had a little repaired. But our plans soon to build a large community center, which will include the synagogue. We hope that Jews who live in the Crimea, will know that they have one address where they can get everything for Jewish life – and to buy kosher products, and visit a kosher restaurant, and so on. Not only local people but also tourists from all over Russia and even from around the world.
– There is already an agreement with the authorities?
– The government has allocated a place, but it is not final. There are several stages of registration, but we hope to quickly go through all the formalities. Time is very short, we must hurry, it’s understood. We hope that in three or four years we can at least raise a building, which will begin to function.
– You negotiate with the authorities of the city or Republic?
And the city and the Republic, and in Moscow the negotiations. The authorities are very helpful. It is important that there was Jewish life.
– With Sergey Aksyonov met?
– I personally haven’t met yet, but hopefully soon this meeting will be. It is already helping. I heard from many that the head of the Crimea was sympathetic to the need to develop Jewish community.