Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was going to visit two synagogues in Moscow during his approaching visit to Russia scheduled for October 17. This decision was made following a struggle between Russian-Israeli business moguls Lev Leviev and Arcadi Gaydamak over who would host the Israeli prime minister.
Olmert initially accepted an invitation from Keroor, the Congress of Jewish Communities of Russia, to attend the re-inauguration ceremony of the historic Arkhipova synagogue, celebrating its hundred year anniversary.
Soon after, the Federation for Jewish Communities in Russia (FJC), connected
to Leviev, also invited the Israeli prime minister to visit the Marina Roscha Synagogue, Moscow’s central synagogue. The FJC claimed that Israeli prime ministers have always visited the synagogue.
The Prime Minister’s office realized it was caught in the middle of a struggle between the two prestigious Russian organizations, and consulted with the Israeli embassy and Nativ, an Israeli liaison organization.
Nativ recommended the prime minister meet with the organization heads under one roof, just as former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon used to, but the embassy suggested visiting both Arkhipova and Marina Roscha, which the prime minister’s office decided to do.
That was not the end of it though, as Russia has several other Jewish organizations, at least one of which was jealous of Olmert’s decision to visit the two synagogues, and demanded a visit from the prime minister as well.
Yisrael Goldschmidt, of Arkhipova’s administration, said Saturday, “Preparations for the synagogues hundredth anniversary began about six months ago. Jewish organization heads, including Gaydamak, will participate in the event and Olmert will make a speech.”
“This synagogue is a symbol. Officially, there is no conflict between our community and the Marina Roscha community, although there were confrontations based on Rabbi appointments. It’s only natural that Olmert would visit both communities and not show preference for one over the other,” Goldshcmidt continued.
Tal Rabina, a spokesman on behalf of Leviev, said: “We would be happy to host Olmert. We invite guests of every state visit to meet with representatives of the Jewish communities in Russia in the Community Union Center. It wouldn’t be fitting to do anything else, after he leaves us.”
Chaim Levinson contributed to the article