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Podcast: Maxim D. Shrayer on the Moral Obligations and Dilemmas of Russia’s Jewish Leaders

December 9, 2022 | By: Maxin D. Shrayer

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On February 24, when Russian president Vladimir Putin began his country’s invasion of Ukraine, Jewish leaders found themselves caught on opposing sides of an active war. Ukrainian rabbis have suggested that the war is a holy fight between good and evil. Jewish religious leaders in Russia, meanwhile, have come under heavy pressure to denounce the war publicly, which most of them have thus far avoided doing, no doubt in part since the Russian government is now cracking down on dissent. Instead, they’ve generally taken a publicly pacifist position, arguing that all war is bad and that holiness can be found in peace.

On this week’s podcast, Maxim D. Shrayer, a professor of Russian, English, and Jewish studies at Boston College, joins Mosaic’s editor, Jonathan Silver, to discuss how those Russian Jewish leaders have tried to balance their competing priorities. As Shrayer points out, though many of them likely oppose the war, they’re also called to care for their communities, maintain functional relations with the political authorities, and preserve what their congregants have built up over the decades since the end of the Soviet Union. So what are the moral obligations of Russia’s Jewish leaders right now?

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

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More about: Jewish Political Thought  • Tikvah Podcasts