A Platinum Schemer and a Jewelry Show, the Benefits of Privilege and the Opportunities that Await… in Hong Kong

Jona Rechnitz


To Our Readers:

We saw this story and found it quite astonishing. Jona Rechnitz has admitted to guilt for numerous crimes, crimes of significant magnitude, for which at least one member of the Platinum family, just got sentenced to 30 months.

He has testified with a level of arrogance fit only for rich, entitled, unrepentant fraudsters, flippantly waiving around the word “truth” as if he knows the significance of its foundation in the English language and jurisprudence. He has been smug, lied, admitted to numerous infractions of morality, ethics and the law and now he asks to be allowed to Hong Kong to attend a jewelry show.

Have we lost our collective minds? Perhaps he wants to ask his friends and accomplices for a “bisel gelt” [a little bit of money] to buy something nice, or to grease the palms of someone who can? He is one of a group of white, privileged criminals running roughshod over the law.

Let’s not forget that his early career started with a position working for LevLeviev’s Africa Israel. Leviev, a diamond magnate in his own right, is unable to travel the world these days as a result of the criminal laws of multiple countries. It is unclear whether Rechnitz and his well-connected family has broken ties. And let’s be reminded that the Israeli justice system is trying to maneuver testimony from that same Leviev regarding a major diamond smuggling endeavor. 

And Judge Hellerstein is being asked by a begging Jona Rechnitz to attend a jewelry show in Hong Kong? And the prosecutor is agreeing on condition that Rechnitz’s wife surrender her passport? Has the prosecutor not thought this through?

The exchange for Rechnitz’s wife’s passport is but a joke, a circus stunt. Both Jona Rechnitz and his wife likely carry numerous passports and the surrender is thus insignificant. Moreover, the ideal guarantee that Rechnitz would return from the Hong Kong jewelry show without a new bank vault of difficult to trace assets would be to freeze all of his bank accounts while he is gone… and perhaps those of his family and all of their closest friends and associates. 

Judge Hellerstein, you got the Murray Huberfeld verdict right, please think about what is really going on here. You are being asked to help a very wealthy, entitled, dishonest and connected man get just a little bit wealthier. He has committed crimes. He should not be rewarded for his willingness to testify on behalf of the government when few can discern if his testimony was lies, truth or some combination of the two. 

Corrupt de Blasio donor begs judge to let him attend Hong Kong jewelry show

A Mayor de Blasio donor who is out on $500,000 bail pending his sentencing for bribing cops wants a judge to allow him to travel to Hong Kong for a jewelry show later this month, according to new court documents.

Jona Rechnitz — a government cooperator who testified at two corruption trials — is asking Manhattan federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein to allow him to travel for nine days starting Feb. 25 “to attend an international jewelry show” for business, lawyer Alan Levine wrote in a letter to Hellerstein.

During testimony, Rechnitz said he currently works in real estate and jewelry.

Prosecutors agreed to the request as long as Rechnitz’s wife turns over her passport.

To read the article in its entirety, click here.



23 Wall Street, Lev Leviev, Brother and Son Arrested – Diamond Smuggling

The article mentions that the Real Deal broke down the 23 Wall Street connection to Sam Pa in its April 23 [2018] magazine cover story. LostMessiah uncovered the connection to Sam Pa, China Sonongol, the Queensway Group and other shady connections in several articles beginning in April 2016. We have linked you to a few of them and invite you to run a search on our search bar. The information is easily found.

The smuggling of diamonds is not an illogical but rather an anticipated activity.  And it is not inimical to the Leviev connections to real estate, to Jona Rechnitz, to Platinum Partners and to the current police corruption trials to review the hidden accounts of many of Rechnitz’s private police connections. We stand by the position that there are hidden stash’s of diamonds, just waiting for the sand to clear.

Lev Leviev’s son, brother arrested on diamond smuggling charges: report

Family members of diamond tycoon and real estate developer Lev Leviev were arrested in Israel last week on charges of smuggling gemstones into the country, Jerusalem Post reported.

Leviev’s son and brother were booked along with a former employee of Leviev’s Russian diamond manufacturing operation, according to the publication. The unnamed employee stands accused of transporting diamonds from Russia into Israel in a suitcase.

“Mr. Leviev and the companies under his control act in accordance with the proper norms while adhering to the law,” a spokesperson for Leviev’s company, LLD, told the Jerusalem Post. “We hope that the matter will soon be clarified and the suspicions will prove to be baseless.”

Leviev, who was born in Uzbekistan but moved to Israel and ultimately Great Britain, is widely considered one of the world’s most influential diamond traders. His real estate development outfit Africa Israel made a name for itself in New York as a condominium builder in the 2000s, but sold off most of its holdings in the wake of the global financial crisis.

The Real Deal broke down Leviev’s ties to shadowy Chinese mogul Sam Pa and his investment in 23 Wall Street in its April magazine cover story.

To read the article in its original format click here.

Leviev, Diamonds and Condoms

Diamonds and Condoms and Orifices, but Why?

The irony of this particular story is not lost on us. We can’t possibly imagine how uncomfortable stuffing small glass-like rocks into one’s orifices must be, so this story is almost funny…. if it weren’t.

And we really do not think that the smuggling of diamonds needed be so very elaborate. In fact, if they were not cut or polished, the idea that they could not be smuggled with relative ease is quite ridiculous.

Consider this: a woman carries a makeup bag with mascara, eyeliner, an assortment of lipsticks a variety of eye shadows; and at the bottom of that bag are some stones, lying around, pieces of sand from a beach or sea-glass. It would be so simple. No customs agent would even contemplate the possibility that such mundanely placed items have any value. And to assume they are diamonds? Likely not.  

Every female who has ever traveled likely has unidentified wrappers, residue from makeup, or a hotel shampoo bottle in her makeup pouch or in a lost corner of her handbag. Why is the possibility, that diamonds could be smuggled, identified as a few stones from the beach, perhaps, mingled with seashells meaninglessly lost in a handbag really so hard to conceive? At very worst, a woman carrying such items could so easily claim not to know that they had any value. Whereas, a person with strategically stuffed items in orifices would have a far more difficult time explaining away such items. And, one would think that movement within the airport restricted by those items would be far, far more uncomfortable.

But… we did find some humor in the theory nonetheless. We only hope that whomever suffered the indignity of smuggling diamonds in such an uncomfortable manner got paid very, very handsomely. 

A woman carrying just such a purse would likely raise far less suspicion and suffer far less opprobrium.


Police believe Leviev workers had diamonds smuggled into Israel in condoms

Investigators in mass fraud probe say Russian-Israeli billionaire’s enterprise hired couriers to hide gems inside bodies, a tactic typically employed by crime organizations

Russian-Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev’s diamond enterprise, the subject of a mass fraud probe, is suspected of smuggling hundreds of millions of shekels’ worth of gems into Israel inside condoms inserted into couriers’ bodies, in a tactic law enforcement officials have described as a page out of a crime organization’s book.

Leviev’s son and brother have been arrested in connection with the smuggling operation. Leviev himself is reportedly being sought by authorities for questioning over the case — which was first made public last week — but he is refusing to return to Israel from Russia.

Zevulun and Moshe Leviev were among six suspects held on suspicion of smuggling. The pair had run a diamond facility owned by Lev Leviev and the remaining four suspects held senior positions in his company. The remand of all six suspects has been repeated extended by the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court.

Details of the investigation at the Lahav 433 anti-corruption police unit and of the testimony of a state witness in the case were published Thursday by the Ynet news site, exposing the way the gems made their way from Russia into Israel.

Leviev’s enterprise would hire couriers who packed the diamonds into condoms and then inserted them into their bodies. Donning suits, they posed as businessmen and managed to pass Israel border control without raising suspicion.

The diamonds — worth some NIS 300 million ($81.4 million) — were then sold illegally in Israel, without paying taxes. They were also smuggled into other countries, according to the investigation.

“That tactic is very common for drug dealers, who use couriers to smuggle large quantities of drugs inside the couriers’ bodies,” a source with knowledge of the investigation was quoted by Ynet as saying.

“The mere thought of smuggling in this way is a testament to the criminal intentions of those officials. They were afraid that the diamonds would be discovered had they been smuggled in suitcases, and therefore worked with couriers who were willing to take the risk.”

The Russian diamond factory is suspected of operating in two separate production lines: a legal one, which included all the necessary reports to authorities and tax payments, and the illegal one. Police believe that design sought to eliminate suspicion by ostensibly being a law-abiding business, similar to crime organizations that typically also retain legal businesses.

Police and Tax Authority officials believe Leviev played a role in the sting, according to the Walla news website, which did not specify what he is suspected of. Police and prosecutors haven’t yet decided whether to ask Russian authorities to extradite Leviev or request permission to conduct the investigation on Russian soil.

More arrests in Israel and abroad are expected, according to authorities.

The case was cracked with the aid of one of the suspects who turned state witness after he was stopped six months ago at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport carrying a diamond worth a million shekels ($270,000), the Globes website reported.

In a statement, Leviev’s company LLD Diamonds previously said it had no information about the arrests.

“The company knows nothing of the events reported in the media,” the statement said. “Mr. Leviev and the companies he owns operate according to the appropriate norms, and in compliance with the law. We hope that the matter will quickly be clarified and that the suspicions will turn out to be baseless.”

Born in the then-Soviet republic of Uzbekistan, Leviev moved to Israel at age 15 but  lived in London for much of the past decade before moving to Russia. He is a major supporter of many Jewish causes, including Chabad-Lubavitch, a Hasidic sect that focuses on outreach to Jews around the world.

Leviev, LLD Diamonds, Africa Israel and a Name Withheld

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The son of Israeli billionaire diamond magnate Lev Leviev is among suspects arrested in Israel in connection with a diamond smuggling scheme, according to court documents released on Tuesday.

The case focuses on Leviev’s company, LLD Diamonds, a leading global manufacturer and marketer of polished diamonds, Police have said they expect to make more arrests, both in Israel and abroad.

Leviev’s son Zevulun is among six suspects accused of involvement in a smuggling operation that has brought about 300 million shekels’ ($80 million) worth of diamonds illegally into Israel since 2010, according to a transcript of a custody hearing held on Monday.

Israel is a world centre for diamond cutting and polishing, with one of the biggest exchanges in the world, at Ramat Gan.

Lawyers representing Zevulun Leviev in a statement said the allegations against him were “baseless” and his arrest appeared to be a tactic to “illegitimately pressure his father”.

Lev Leviev, who was born in Uzbekistan and according to the court documents is currently believed to be in Russia, built his fortune in diamonds and property.

LLD said in a statement it had no knowledge of the alleged smuggling.

“Mr. Leviev and the companies in his control operate in accordance with the proper norms while adhering to the law. We hope that the matter will be clarified soon and the suspicions will be proven baseless,” it said.

Leviev also owns 48 percent of the real estate firm Africa Israel Investments , once one of Israel’s biggest conglomerates, whose business has struggled since a downturn in the Russian real estate market. ($1 = 3.6847 shekels)

A Diamond Cut Family… Leviev, His Son and Brother

FORBES: 11.6.18 5:53AM

Billionaire’s son and brother held in Israeli diamond smuggling case

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The son and brother of Israeli billionaire diamond magnate Lev Leviev are among suspects arrested in Israel in connection with a diamond smuggling scheme, according to court documents released on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: A trader inspects a diamond during a show at the trading floor of Israel’s Diamond Exchange (IDE) in Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv, Israel August 29, 2013. REUTERS/Nir Elias/File Photo

The case focuses on Leviev’s company, LLD Diamonds, a leading global manufacturer and marketer of polished diamonds, Police have said they expect to make more arrests, both in Israel and abroad.

Leviev’s son Zevulun and brother Moshe are accused of involvement in a smuggling operation that has brought about 300 million shekels’ ($80 million) worth of diamonds illegally into Israel since 2010, according to a transcript of a custody hearing held on Monday.

Israel is a world center for diamond cutting and polishing, with one of the biggest exchanges in the world, at Ramat Gan.

Lawyers representing Zevulun Leviev in a statement said the allegations against him were “baseless” and his arrest appeared to be a tactic to “illegitimately pressure his father”.

Moshe Leviev’s lawyer denied in court that his client had any connection to the allegations against him.

Lev Leviev, who was born in Uzbekistan and according to the court documents is currently believed to be in Russia, built his fortune in diamonds and property.

LD said in a statement it had no knowledge of the alleged smuggling.

“Mr. Leviev and the companies in his control operate in accordance with the proper norms while adhering to the law. We hope that the matter will be clarified soon and the suspicions will be proven baseless,” it said.

Leviev also owns 48 percent of the real estate firm Africa Israel Investments , once one of Israel’s biggest conglomerates, whose business has struggled since a downturn in the Russian real estate market.


A Diamond Smuggling Operation and Leviev’s Relatives… The Rolling Stones… ummm


Leviev relations arrested for suspected diamond smuggling


Those arrested at Ben Gurion Airport are suspected of smuggling diamonds from Russia.

The Rishon Lezion Magistrates Court is currently hearing an Israel Police request to extend the remand of six suspects, including members of Lev Leviev’s family, on suspicion of smuggling diamonds to Israel. It is suspected that LLD, a company owned by Lev Leviev, smuggled diamonds worth NIS 300 million to Israel.

The police are asking the court to remand the suspects for nine days. The police say that six people involved are suspected of diamond smuggling, money laundering, offenses under the Customs Tax and Exemptions and Purchase Tax Ordinance, offenses under the Income Tax Ordinance, conspiracy to commit a crime, fraud, falsifying corporate documents, and other offenses.

Representing one of the suspects related to Lev Leviev arrested in the affair, Adv. Amit Hadad told the police representative, “It seems to me that you caught one too many fish in your net. You said in your statement at the beginning of the hearing that all of the suspects worked for LLD, except for one of them. You will confirm that my client did not work for the company at all during the past year.

The police representative answered, “True. He holds a percentage of the company’s shares.”

Hadad: “My client did not work in all of the relevant years – 2010-2018. You will confirm that he never received a salary or dividend from the company.”

Police representative: “Not as far as I know.”

Hadad: “There has been a rift between Lev Leviev and my client for 10 years already – they are not on speaking terms, they do not correspond, and they are on the verge of killing each other.”

Police representative: “I became aware of this only today.”

Hadad: “Not only is this no secret, but there is an arbitration taking place between the two. All this is known…. You will confirm that my client has had no business connection with his brother for the past 10 years.”

Police representative: “Not to the best of my knowledge.”

In answer to Hadad’s question, the judge commented, “The evidence connecting Leviev’s relative to the affair was presented to me.”



Chabad Kinus 2018, Lev Leviev, Berel Lazar, Cozy Ties and Dancing in New York


The Forward October 8, 2017

Chabad Feuds With Jewish Leaders Over Cozy Ties To Eastern European Autocrats

In the former Communist states of Central and Eastern Europe, established mainstream Jewish groups are increasingly worried that Chabad, the international Hasidic movement, is allying itself with authoritarian governments.

In countries from Hungary to Russia, they say, Chabad is at times playing down anti-Semitism in a bid to compete with local Jewish groups and win access to financial resources and political influence.

Chabad, in turn, says that mainstream groups are too embroiled in secular and political issues, including polarizing disputes about democracy and civil liberties, at the expense of guarding core communal Jewish interests of physical security and Jewish religious freedom. In some cases, Chabad officials say, these establishment groups are also corrupt.

The increasing tensions between Chabad and more established Jewish groups are playing out in different ways in different countries. Each case is unique:

*In Russia, Vladimir Putin has for years favored Chabad Rabbi Berel Lazar over the long-established chief rabbi of Russia, Adolf Shayevich. Shayevich aligned with a Jewish umbrella group that sought to keep its distance from the government in the post-Communist era. Lazar has been more supportive.

*In Poland, Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of the ruling hard-right Law and Justice party, met in August with two Chabad representatives and the leader of a third Jewish group in a get-together that state media portrayed as a discussion with the community. Leaders of major groups who wrote Kaczyński about their fears of rising anti-Semitism in Poland were not invited.

*In Hungary, prominent Jews and non-Jews have criticized President Viktor Orbán for using anti-Semitic tropes in his extended national campaign against the American financier George Soros. A senior Hungarian Chabad rabbi, however, has defended Orbán.

Chabad, for its part, strongly defends its conception of and approach to Jewish interests. “When you start, as a representative of the community, mixing Jewish issues with political issues, even if they’re social, and saying you represent the whole Jewish community, it doesn’t work very well and is frankly dangerous,” one Chabad official in the United States said. “You’re mixing politics with what’s in the interest of the Jewish community.” Speaking on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly, he explained: “Anti-Semitism is an issue for the Jewish community. Other rights are issues all [citizens] must grapple with, not the Jewish community uniquely.”

Founded in 1775 in what is today Belarus, Chabad-Lubavitch saw its ranks decimated after the Holocaust. But over the past decades, the movement, with its headquarters relocated to Brooklyn after World War II, has become a global force. Thousands of its emissaries, known as schlichim, are reaching out to Jews of all persuasions, on American college campuses and in outposts around the world.

“Chabad plays an outsized role” in post-Communist Eastern Europe, said David Shneer, professor of history, religious studies and Jewish studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. And Chabad, he said, “works with governments that allow Judaism to be practiced no matter their political orientation.” The Hasidic group does not, he said, see Jewry as an independent political force in the context of civil society, as in the American style. Instead, “Chabad uses its relationship to state power to become the face of Judaism,” Shneer said.

In some countries with histories of anti-Semitism and mixed records or worse during the Holocaust, Jewish activists are currently battling their governments’ efforts to promote heroic but distorted national accounts of the countries’ conduct during the Shoah. But “Chabad says we can’t dwell on the past,” Shneer said. “Chabad is waiting for the Messiah and needs Jews to do mitzvot,” or Torah-based commandments. That’s “about the present and future, not the past,” he said.

Konstanty Gebert, a prominent Polish journalist, traditionally observant Jew and early member of Solidarity, the trade union that ousted his country’s communist regime, didn’t mince words about what this means in his country. It was, he said, “an act of disloyalty to the existing Jewish community,” for two Chabad rabbis to meet recently with the leader of Poland’s hard-line nationalist ruling party in a session that excluded other Jewish groups that were pressing the leader publicly on alleged government tolerance—and even encouragement—of rising anti-Semitism,

The August 17 meeting, which also included the head of Poland’s Jewish Cultural Society and a controversial Israeli-British public relations consultant named Jonny Daniels, took place after major Jewish organizations wrote Kaczyński, about being “appalled by recent events and fearful for our security.”

Earlier that month, Bogdan Rzonca, a lawmaker with Kaczyński’s own Law and Justice Party, wrote on Twitter: “I wonder why there are so many Jews among those performing abortions, despite the Holocaust.” Jews protested that party leaders issued no reprimand.

They have also, among other things, criticized the government’s financial support for Radio Maria, a media empire whose anti-Semitic broadcasts have been condemned by the U.S. State Department, the Council of Europe, the Vatican and the Polish government’s own National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council.

Kaczyński ignored the leaders’ letter. Then, under headlines such as “Polish Ruling Party Head Meets With Jewish Community Leaders,” Polish state media played up Kaczyński’s meeting with Chabad and the other two Jewish figures.

“Obviously the government… is handpicking its Jews,” Gebert charged.

The response of the Chabad rabbi Mayer Stambler to this criticism is virtually a declaration of full autonomy. “Chabad-Lubavitch in Poland represents the Jews of Poland, as any other organization here does,” he said in an email to the Forward. The rabbi, who heads Chabad’s Warsaw outreach, added pointedly, “No group can claim to exclusively represent Polish Jewry.”

In their meeting, Stambler related, “We definitely raised the issue of anti-Semitism!”

Kaczyński, he said, “made it clear that he definitely supported Jewish life in Poland. And he certainly supports the State of Israel.” During their talk, the Polish leader acknowledged that anti-Semitism exists in Poland “in various circles and places,” said Stambler, “but it is impossible to accuse him and the leadership of his party of giving encouragement of any kind, [to] anti-Semitism.”

Last May, it was one of Chabad’s representatives in Hungary, Slomó Köves, who came to the defense of the country’s nationalist government when many Jewish and non-Jewish Hungarians raised concerns that Orbán was stoking populist hatred by using classical anti-Semitic themes in his campaign against Soros. Hungary’s Jewish umbrella group, the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, which, like Chabad, receives government support, has often shied away from speaking out against Orbán directly, but ultimately joined in the criticism. (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, sided with Chabad when he rebuked his ambassador in Budapest for raising the same criticism.)

Chabad leaders believe that through years of effort, they have earned the right to act autonomously in what they see as Jewish interests.

“We started with my wife and me,” said Rabbi Baruch Oberlander, the 51-year old chief Chabad rabbi in Hungary, as he sat in his book-filled office in Budapest’s historic Jewish Quarter.

Oberlander grew up in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, a son of Hungarian Holocaust survivors. He and his young wife — herself the daughter of a Chabad emissary in Italy — arrived in Budapest in 1989, right before the fall of the Communist regime.

“We came here to teach Judaism in a place where unfortunately they didn’t have the option,” Oberlander said. “The biggest problem of Judaism in Eastern Europe and the whole world is ignorance…. They don’t know what Judaism is all about, so you cannot expect them to stick to religion, to the culture and traditions that they don’t know and don’t understand.”

Oberlander set out to build a new Jewish infrastructure in Hungary: printing new translations of prayer books that have not been updated in seven decades, launching a publication, opening educational institutions and training a new generation of religious scholars.

At the same time, other Chabad shlichim were setting out on similar projects throughout the suddenly defunct Soviet bloc. As young Chabad couples began to expand their activities in the region, some developed close ties with the local authorities.

In 1990, Berel Lazar, Oberlander’s brother-in-law, arrived in Russia, where he found that the revived Jewish community, after years of underground development during the Soviet Jewry movement, already had its own nascent leadership. These activists from various organizations ultimately coalesced around an umbrella group known as the Russian Jewish Congress, led by Vladimir Gusinsky. An early oligarch under the Russian Federation’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, Gusinsky’s holding company included NTV, the leading private television network in Russia’s newly free media.

“Gusinsky was the most important leader of Russian Jewry,” said Alexander Osovtsov, a former executive vice president of the RJC who now lives in Israel. The RJC, meanwhile, was politically “neutral,” he said.

The young Lazar, however, befriended Lev Leviev, a wealthy Israeli-Uzbek in the diamond business. He later expanded his support network to include oligarchs like banker Roman Abramovich — and, when he succeeded Yeltsin, President Vladimir Putin himself.

“The uniqueness of Chabad is reaching out, not waiting for people to come with questions,” Lazar told the Forward in a phone interview.

But there are other incentives. Chabad emissaries get initial funding from the organization when they are sent to a new country, but they are then expected to fundraise locally. This puts pressure on Chabad rabbis to reach out to wealthy businesspeople and well-placed government officials for financial support.

With Putin’s ascent to the presidency in 2000, Gusinsky, who insisted on his media network’s journalistic independence, drew the Kremlin’s ire by running many pieces critical of the government. Lazar made a decision: He quit the Congress, and claimed the title of chief rabbi.


“Gusinksy was using his business and his position as a Jewish communal leader to oppose Putin politically,” the American Chabad official said. “And Rabbi Lazar and others said, ‘Look, it’s very fine for Jews to be part of that debate, but don’t bring the whole Jewish community down by picking a fight with the ruling party in the name of all Jews and Judaism.’”

Gusinsky, in defiance of the Kremlin, supported his media outlets’ investigation into the bombing of several buildings in Moscow that the government attributed to Chechen terrorists. Gusisnky’s NTV probed evidence cited by some independent investigators who raised the possibility that the bombings were in fact the work of the FSB, Russia’s successor intelligence agency to the KGB, seeking to influence upcoming elections.

The Kremlin response came quickly, on several fronts. A fraud investigation against Gusinsky eventually moved him to flee the country. And as part of Putin’s campaign to weaken Gusinsky, the newly elected president invited Chabad’s Lazar, instead of the longtime chief rabbi Shayevich, who was aligned with the RJC, to his inauguration. Since then, Lazar has been the Kremlin’s openly preferred Jewish leader, attending speeches and state events and receiving significant support from the government.

“Mr. Lazar is not independent,” Osovtsov said. “He is one of the members of Putin’s team. He’s the main Jew of Russia, according to the authorities and Putin’s personal decision.” Osovtsov pointed to Lazar’s recent conciliatory meeting with a pro-Putin politician who made openly anti-Semitic statements as evidence of the rabbi’s unquestioning loyalty to Putin.

“We’re not dealing with the Kremlin differently than any other government,” Lazar said in response. “The Kremlin has done a lot to support religion.” He cited examples, like the government’s support for the construction of a museum, and the return of Jewish community properties. “The Jewish religion [in Russia] is on par with all other religions,” he added. Moreover, “when it comes to values and morals,” the Kremlin’s position resembles that of Russia’s religious groups, he said.

Chabad officials insist that Russia is a unique case. But others in the region see Chabad rabbis trying to emulate Lazar’s approach in Russia.

In Poland, everyone is “a little bit hesitant because of what’s happening in Russia and Ukraine, with Chabad being very close to Putin,” said Jonathan Ornstein, who serves as the executive director of the Jewish Community Centre of Krakow. “I think that’s a little bit of what we had now with that meeting. The meeting was harmful for Polish Jewry.”

Chabad, Gebert said, “is certainly competing for the attention of the authorities…. By meeting with those it wants to meet with, [the government] sends a clear signal to the existing Jewish community,” whose leaders complain that the government is tolerating anti-Semitism.

“We have never claimed to represent all Jewish organizations or that we are the exclusive representatives of the community,” Stambler said in response. But at the same time, he added, “As an apolitical organization, we seek to maintain a positive relationship with the government, with all political parties, with relevant NGOs and with others.”

In Hungary, Chabad competes with the umbrella Jewish organization, the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary, known under the acronym MAZSIHISZ, with both groups receiving government funding and unclaimed properties belonging to Hungary’s prewar Jewish community.

“We step up not only in favor of issues that directly affect the Jewish people,” said András Heisler, president of MAZSIHISZ, which eventually spoke out against Orbán’s anti-Soros campaign. “But we keep in mind the problems of the whole Hungarian society, from the issues of poverty up until exclusion, from persecution of Gypsy [Roma] people up until the xenophobia. We are not driven by interests of the government or the opposition, but the Torah and our conscience.”

It’s a striking counterpoint to Chabad’s narrower definition of Jewish interests.

“Many times people advocate for certain policies as ‘Jewish values,’” the American Chabad official said. “But are they really? They’re surely important values, but… just because some Jews feel strongly about something does not automatically make it a ‘Jewish value.’”


Read more: https://forward.com/news/world/384236/chabad-feuds-with-jewish-leaders-over-cozy-ties-to-eastern-european-autocra/