U.S. Chabad rabbi loses appeal against deportation from Russia

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — A Russian appeals court affirmed the expulsion order issued against an American rabbi working in Sochi, in what a local leader of the Chabad movement called a “dark day” for Jews.

In its ruling Tuesday against Ari Edelkopf, the Krasnodar Court of Appeals accepted the position of a Sochi tribunal that earlier this year determined that Edelkopf, who had been working as Chabad’s emissary to the city, was a threat to national security. He has now no legal recourse and is legally obligated to leave the country in the near future, Interfax reported.

Boruch Gorin, a senior spokesperson for Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, condemned the ruling Tuesday as “hostile.” For the first time “in the modern history of Russia, a rabbi is declared a ‘threat to national security’,” Gorin wrote on Facebook, adding that authorities have refused to divulge any details of the nature of alleged threat, citing laws on state secrets. He told Interfax the ruling was “Kafakesque” and “grounds for lawlessness.”

Tuesday was “a dark day in the history of the Jews in Russia,” Gorin added on Facebook.

Edelkopf, a father of seven who grew up in the United States and lived in Israel before settling in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi as Chabad’s envoy there, has denied engaging in any activity that can reasonably be considered as unsavory to authorities.

The deportation against him and his family comes amid a crackdown in Russia on organizations with foreign funding. Edelkopf’s staying permit was revoked in December, according to Interfax. He lost an appeal in regional court.

The Chabad-affiliated Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia has condemned the order since it was first issued. Gorin told the French news agency AFP that this was “far from an isolated incident.” He added that at least seven rabbis have been forced to leave Russia in recent years for alleged immigration violations.

Gorin said this was “an attempt to establish control” on Jewish communities in Russia, which he said are serviced by some 70 rabbis, of whom half are foreign.