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Dispute in Ukraine over election of new chief rabbi

20 Sep 2005

September 20, 2005

A large number of Ukrainian rabbis have called in the question the legality of the election of a new chief rabbi. More than 30 Chabad rabbis affiliated with the Federation of Jewish Communities have issued a statement saying that the election of another Chabad rabbi, Moshe Reuven Azman of Kiev, to serve as Ukraine’s chief rabbi was “illegitimate” and “insulting to the feelings of every believer.” A chief rabbi could only "be elected by rabbis working in Jewish communities of that country”, the statement said, referring to the fact that Azman’s election on 11 September was endorsed by a group of secular Jewish leaders but not by any rabbinical authorities.
The vast majority of rabbis permanently working in Ukraine are Chabad rabbis affiliated with the federation. Unlike other Orthodox rabbis, Azman, who is Russian-born, is not affiliated with the Chabad-led federation and for years has received support from Vadim Rabinovich, a Ukrainian business magnate and leader of the All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress who initiated the election for chief rabbi.