Lazar, Berel

Lazar, Berel
(1964– )
   Religious leader. A member of the Chabad-Lubavitch, an ultraorthodox Hassidic movement currently headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, Rabbi Berel Lazar is recognized by the Russian government to be the leader of the country’s Jewish community. A native of Milan, Italy, Lazar studied at Central Lubavitch Yeshiva in the United States, and worked clandestinely with the refusenik movement to abet Jewish migration to Israel during the late 1980s. His appointment to an advisory board in 2000 demonstrated that the new president, Vladimir Putin, sought to marginalize the previously recognized Chief Rabbi Adolf Shayevich, an ally of Vladimir Gusinsky, an oligarch and critic of Putin. Lazar’s appointment was criticized by a number of prominent Jewish organizations, which worried that Moscow was seeking to exert control over the practice of Judaism in Russia; his foreign birth and poor Russian language skills have also been criticized.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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