Russian Jewish group at war with itself

moscow | A leading Russian Jewish organization has been rocked by unrest in its leadership.

Several top members of the Russian Jewish Congress voted Thursday, Oct. 6 to oust the group’s head, Vladimir Slutsker.

Slutsker, a banker and member of the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of Parliament, refused to step down, saying that only the group’s presidium could vote him out.

The standoff is just the latest example of unrest in recent years surrounding the group, once the leading voice of Russian Jewry. It calls into question who will speak for secular Russian Jews, who represent a majority of Russia’s Jewish community at least 500,000 people.

Some leading RJC donors recently accused Slutsker of helping the Russian government deny Moscow’s chief rabbi, Pinchas Goldschmidt, entry to the country, a charge Slutsker denies.

Both sides of the Slutsker debate say a further decline in the RJC’s efforts could harm the entire community.

“The very existence of RJC carries a high importance,” RJC member Mikhail Chlenov said. “If the RJC disappears from the scene, this can alienate many Jews, 90 percent of whom are not religious, from Jewish life.”