Moshe Reuven Azman
Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman (born 14 March 1966 in Leningrad, USSR) is the Rabbi of the Brodski Synagogue in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine and the chief Rabbi of Ukraine of the All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress and the United Jewish Community of Ukraine, one of three rabbis with a claim on the title, and one of two Chabad rabbis with a claim.
Born in Leningrad, Azman hails from a family of both Chabad and non-Hasidic rabbis—his mother's family was Chabad, his father's Litvish. He is married to the daughter of Reb Zusya Hirsh Lyubarsky, a shokhet from Kharkiv. Azman was active in the refusenik movement since his youth and received ordination as a shokhet (ritual slaughterer) when he was 18. In 1982, the central communist newspaper Pravda, reporting on Jewish refusenik activities in Leningrad, referred to him as "An enemy of Soviet Power." Several years later, in 1987, he received permission from the Soviet government to leave the USSR and studied in Chabad yeshivas in Israel. He was appointed head of "Beit Chabad for Russian Jews" in Israel during the Russian aliyah of 1991, helping Russian-Jewish immigrants adjust to Israel life in Israel and reconnect to Judaism. Rabbi Azman was also charged with bringing Ukrainian-Jewish children of Chernobyl to Israel and overseeing their medical and psychological rehabilitation.
In 1995, Rabbi Azman returned to Kiev and began a synagogue in one of the rooms of the grand Brodsky Synagogue in the center of the city, which had been turned into a puppet theater during the Soviet period.There he worked to rebuild Kiev's Jewish community, which grew until the Kiev government granted the entire synagogue to the Jewish community. Rabbi Azman went on to found a yeshiva, several communal soup kitchens, a chevra kadisha (burial service), three kindergartens, two schools, an orphanage, and many other charitable and educational institutions throughout Ukraine.He also rehabilitated Kiev's Jewish cemetery and has created a medical center where poor families receive free medical care by volunteer doctors. In 2001 Rabbi Azman was officially awarded with the Badge of Honor by the Mayor of Kiev, and in 2009 was awarded the Order of Merit of by the Ukrainian government.
In October 2005, Rabbi Azman was elected as chief Rabbi of Ukraine by the delegates of the All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress and the United Jewish Community of Ukraine, both headed by wealthy Ukrainian-Jewish businessmen. His election caused considerable controversy in the Ukraine Chabad community, as since 2003 many Chabad emissaries working for the Russian-based Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS in Ukraine view Rabbi Azriel Chaikin as the country's chief Rabbi. Many others in the country consider Rabbi Yaakov Bleich., a hasid of Karlin-Stolin, as the country's Chief Rabbi. A group of rabbis from the Chabad Federation of Jewish Communities, headed by government Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar of Russia, attacked the appointment describing it as "illegitimate" and "insulting to the feelings of every believer". 150 secular Jewish leaders sympathetic to the Federation later protested the vote as well. However, Azman has a large following in Kiev and has spearheaded several non-partisan projects for the advancement of orthodox Judaism across the country.
Rabbi Azman served in the IDF starting 1990 and has been present to care for soldiers during every war in Israel since then. Since 2012 he serves as the Rav of an elite Gdud in the Israeli army reserves. He has been at the forefront of efforts to aid East-Ukrainian refugees in Kiev and Ukraine and at the beginning of the war led efforts to evacuate wounded people to hospitals in Israel and the West of the country. He is the founder of the project to resettle homeless Jewish refugees outside Kiev in the village of Anatevka.
- Recent election of third chief rabbi in Ukraine splits Jewish community, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 24 October 2005
- "Chabad dispute escalates", Baltimore Jewish Times, 21 October 2005
- "Ukrainian community split over chief rabbi" The Global Jewish News Source, Vladimir Matveyev, 28 October 2005
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