Russia Rejects Appeal, Set to Deport U.S. Chabad Rabbi Declared 'Threat to National Security'

Russian authorities have refused to divulge any details about the alleged threat posed by Rabbi Ari Edelkopf, citing laws on state secrets, according to a local Chabad leader.

Rabbis pose for a group photo in front of Chabad-Lubavitch world headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, Nov. 23, 2014.
Rabbis pose for a group photo in front of Chabad-Lubavitch world headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, Nov. 23, 2014. Adam Ben Cohen / Chabad.org

On Tuesday, a Russian appeals court affirmed an expulsion order issued against an American rabbi working in Sochi, in what a local leader of the Chabad movement called a “dark day” for Jews.

In its ruling against Ari Edelkopf, the Krasnodar Court of Appeals accepted the determination of a Sochi tribunal that Edelkopf, who had been working as Chabad’s emissary to the city, was a threat to national security. Edelkopf now has no further legal recourse and is legally obligated to leave the country in the near future, Interfax reported.

Boruch Gorin, a senior spokesperson for Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, condemned the ruling Tuesday as “hostile.” For the first time “in the modern history of Russia, a rabbi is declared a ‘threat to national security,’” Gorin wrote on Facebook, adding that authorities have refused to divulge any details about the alleged threat, citing laws on state secrets. Gorin told Interfax the ruling was “Kafkaesque” and “grounds for lawlessness.”

Tuesday was “a dark day in the history of the Jews in Russia,” Gorin wrote on Facebook.

Edelkopf, a father of seven who grew up in the United States and lived in Israel before settling in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, has denied engaging in any activity that can reasonably be considered unsavory to authorities.

The deportation comes amid a Russian crackdown on organizations with foreign funding. Edelkopf’s permit to be in the country was revoked in December, according to Interfax. He lost an appeal in regional court.

The Chabad-affiliated Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia condemned the deportation order when it was first issued. Gorin told the French news agency AFP that this was “far from an isolated incident.” He added that at least seven rabbis have been forced to leave Russia in recent years for alleged immigration violations.

Gorin said this was “an attempt to establish control” over Jewish communities in Russia, which he said are serviced by some 70 rabbis, about half of whom are foreign.

The ruling comes two and a half years after Israeli Chabad Rabbi Krichevsky was deported from Russian following reports by local news organizations that he had been charged with spying for Israel.