Jews should leave Russia if they can.
The stark warning was issued by Pinchas Goldschmidt, the former chief rabbi of Moscow, as 2022 came to a close. After 30 years in office, he left two weeks after the invasion of Ukraine and later revealed the Kremlin pressured him to support the war—“or else.”
A student of history, he fears Jews will again become scapegoats as the government tries to “redirect the anger and discontent of the masses.”
The resulting question: Where does God want them to go?
Goldschmidt, currently in Israel, has been joined by 41,813 Russian Jewish immigrants since the war began a year ago, according to recent data released by the Knesset. Another 90,000 arrived without immigrant status. Israel’s immigration minister stated 600,000 Russians are currently eligible.
But according to its 2010 census, Russia has only 156,000 Jews.
The discrepancy comes from the concept of aliyah—the Hebrew word for “ascent”—in which Israel grants automatic citizenship to anyone who has at least one Jewish grandparent and has not converted to another religion. A controversial coalition deal in the new government includes revising the Law of Return to ensure these olim (immigrants) qualify under religious law—and thus reduce intermarriage. Over 70 percent of last year’s war-induced immigrants are not considered Jewish per Orthodox law, stated the Aliyah and Integration minister.
In many cases, Messianic Jews have been disqualified, and their status is disputed. But last September, the seventh World Conference of Russian-Speaking Messianic Leaders overwhelmingly declared the return to Zion to be a “blessing.”
The only dispute was whether it is also a commandment.
Russian Jews are not the only aspirants. The Knesset stated 13,490 Ukrainian Jews have also immigrated to Israel, as “Operation Homecoming” opened 18 aid centers in Ukraine and neighboring countries. An additional 1,990 Jews immigrated from Belarus.
A 2020 study identified 43,000 Jews in Ukraine—making it one of Europe’s largest Jewish communities—though those eligible to make aliyah could be as high as 200,000.
An estimated 5,000 worship Jesus as Messiah.
Of these, about 1,000 have gone to Germany, where they doubled the local community.
“Aliyah is a certain type of coming home—to the land that belongs to us,” said Vladimir Pikman, executive director of Beit Sar Shalom. “But I don’t see a direct commandment to go to Israel.”
Centered in Berlin, his is the largest Messianic Jewish organization in Europe. Its Hebrew name translates to “House of the Prince of Peace,” and has been a refuge to Ukrainian Jew and Gentile alike, providing translation, logistical help, and trauma care counseling. Of the Jews, believers in Jesus included, they took…
This article was originally published at Christianity Today, on March 7, 2023. Please click here to read the full text.