Russian Jews need to import rabbis

Feb. 16, 2012 at 1:12 PM

MOSCOW, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Russian Jews must keep relying on foreign rabbis, the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia said this week.

The organization held its annual congress in Moscow, RIA Novosti reported.

Leaders said about 200 people have been trained as rabbis since the fall of the Soviet Union. But they said that is not enough to meet demand.

A 2010 census put the number of ethnic Jews in the country at 233,500. The federation said the actual number is closer to 1 million. There are about 200 organized Jewish congregations in 180 cities.

At least three foreign rabbis have been expelled from Russia in the past decade. Yisroel Silberstein, a U.S. rabbi serving Jews in the Primorye region in the Far East, was ordered out of the country in 2009 on the grounds that his visa was for a stay to improve cultural ties and did not allow him to function as a religious leader.

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