Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt
Rabbi Pinchas GoldschmidtYoni Kempinski

The exiled former Chief Rabbi of Moscow is telling Jews to leave Russia while they still can, warning that those who stay will be made scapegoats for the failures of the Ukraine war.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt fled Russia in July, saying he left because of ‘direct messages’ to support the war.

The rabbi said he faced increasing pressure to stand behind the invasion of Ukraine and that “keeping quiet” about the war was “morally wrong.”

Last week, Rabbi Goldschmidt told The Guardian that the “anger and discontent of the masses” over societal hardships in Russia caused by the Ukraine war will be blamed on the Jewish community.

“When we look back over Russian history, whenever the political system was in danger you saw the government trying to redirect the anger and discontent of the masses towards the Jewish community,” he said. “We saw this in tsarist times and at the end of the Stalinist regime.”

He blamed rising antisemitism in Russia on a return to the days of the Soviet Union, and urged Jews to leave while they still have the opportunity.

“We’re seeing rising antisemitism while Russia is going back to a new kind of Soviet Union, and step by step the iron curtain is coming down again. This is why I believe the best option for Russian Jews is to leave,” he said.

Rabbi Goldschmidt said in August that he initially decided to remain neutral about the war to protect the community, which had received “direct messages” to support the war. But he eventually realized that keeping quiet would be morally indefensible.

“Pressure was put on community leaders to support the war and I refused to do so,” he told The Guardian. “I resigned because to continue as chief rabbi of Moscow would be a problem for the community because of the repressive measures taken against dissidents.”

Goldschmidt estimated that about 25 to 30 percent of the Russian Jewish community had emigrated or were planning to leave.

“There’s a section of Russian society called the creacle, the creative class of business and cultural leaders, intellectuals and artists, and I think it’s safe to say a great percentage of those people have left Russia, which is and will be very detrimental to Russian society,” Goldschmidt said.