Meet the Chief Rabbi in Moscow who refused to back Putin’s war against Ukraine

The leader of Moscow’s Jewish community fled Russia and is living in exile after refusing to support President Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine.

Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt was pressured by Russian authorities to publicly support the invasion of Ukraine but refused to do so, his daughter-in-law said Wednesday.

“Can finally share that my in-laws, Moscow Chief Rabbi @PinchasRabbi & Rebbetzin Dara Goldschmidt, have been put under pressure by authorities to publicly support the ‘special operation’ in Ukraine — and refused,” Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt tweeted.

“They flew to Hungary two weeks after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They are now in exile from the community they loved, built & raised their children in, over 33 years — though he was re-elected today by the МЕРО community.”

Despite having left Russia, Goldschmidt was re-elected as Moscow’s chief rabbi for another seven years, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Although many rabbis, Jewish officials and government officials tried to persuade the community to vote for someone other than Goldschmidt, senior Israeli rabbis, including the two chief rabbis, prevailed.

“The coup attempt failed,” a source told the Post.

Goldschmidt, 58, has held the position since 1993.

The Times of Israel reported that Goldschmidt was contacted by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency but the rabbi declined to comment or to answer questions about whether he believed that he will return to Russia.

The Times said Goldschmidt had not been a vocal critic of the war, though Le Figaro reported that he reached out to rabbis in neighboring Moldova in mid-February, days before Russia began its invasion, to warn of a potential flood of refugees.

Chizhik-Goldschmidt, a journalist who lives in New York City, added that “the pain & fear in our family the last few months is beyond words.”

“The sounds of the Moscow Choral Synagogue ring in our ears…I’ll never forget our engagement there in ’14, & taking our children there, Shavuos ’18… Grateful our parents are safe; worried sick over many others…,” she tweeted.

She also shared a story from the French newspaper Le Figaro that detailed her father-in-law’s experience, which included a fundraising stint in Western Europe followed by a visit with his own father in Israel.