Rabbi Zalman Abelsky, Chief Rabbi of Kishinev and Moldova, met with Avigdor Lieberman, leader of Israel's Homeland Israel Party, on July 14, 2008. The following are excerpts from an interview about the meeting between Mr. Lieberman and our correspondent
Q: Mr. Lieberman, what does your visit to Rabbi Zalman mean to you?
A: As a rule, the visit to the rabbi makes one think of things one usually has no time to think of and which one tries to avoid. This time was no different. I remember the [name of synagogue here], which I attended in my childhood on Jewish holidays. In the Soviet period, these visits were very risky―it was a kind of adventure, which impressed us a lot, actually. We would come to synagogue at Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the police would come and make people go home. Those are my memories.
It goes without saying that Jewish traditions must be kept here. They should be felt constantly.
Q: What did you personally take from the conversation with the Chief Rabbi?
A: It is quite clear to me that the absence of direct connection between the State of Israel and the [Moldovan] Jewish community is felt in the field of providing assistance and emphasizing the priority of Jewish education in Jewish communities. It leads to complete chaos; nobody understands who should be supported financially and how. Taking all these factors into consideration, we can say that it provokes disorder in the Jewish diaspora.
Of course, I hope to work on this issue after the elections. I hope to oversee this complex effort which includes everything connected to Jewish activities in former Soviet Republics. There are numerous organizations which do the same work―sometimes they compete and sometimes they overlap each other's work. The Joint, the Sochnut, the Natif, local communities, yeshivas and local rabbis―they all need to define their status and territory.
Special attention should be given to the problem of giyur. This matter is very complicated, even in Israel, and this problem should be solved. In general, our conversation was very useful. Thank you for your interest. Good luck!