Jewish 100, 2015: Berel Lazar – Religion
Chief Rabbi of Russia
Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar continues to oversee the revitalization of Jewish life in the former Soviet Union, as a result of his close ties to President Vladimir Putin and his ability to translate that influence into meaningful on-the-ground outcomes.
He has helped to open Jewish centers, schools, camps, soup kitchens and other communal institutions in a region once hostile to the Jewish community.
Moreover, Russian Jews under Lazar have extended aid to the Ukrainian Jewish community, and he has appealed for unity among the communities during this time of strife between the two nations.
His title as head of the Russian Jewish community, as Lazar has come to see it, is nothing more than “a tool that allows me to achieve certain goals for my community,” said Lazar, who was Chabad’s chief envoy to the nation before becoming chief rabbi in 2000.