Court Says U.S. Rabbi Must Be Deported

By Natalya Krainova

A Vladivostok court Wednesday ordered a senior Far East rabbi, a U.S. citizen, to be deported after it ruled that he misrepresented his activities in the country on his visa application.

The city's Pervorechensky District Court ruled to deport Israel Silberstein, 26, the chief rabbi of the Primorye region, Daniil Yakovlev, a spokesman for the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, told The Moscow Times.

Silberstein plans to appeal the ruling and by law has 10 days to file a motion, Yakovlev said.

"We believe the violation was not serious enough to deport him," Yakovlev said. "We hope that the outcome of the case will be positive," he added.

On his visa application, Silberstein indicated cultural ties were the purpose of his visit, which only partially covered his activities as a rabbi, Yakovlev said. A Federal Migration Service spokesman told The Moscow Times that the rabbi should have indicated religous activities as the purpose of his visit.

Numerous foreigners have been deported or had Russian visa applications rejected on the grounds that they falsely indicated their reasons for visiting the country.

In one high-profile case, Kenneth Roth, head of the New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch, said he was denied a Russian visa after his visa agency erroneously indicated that he was coming to Russia as a tourist rather than on business.

Roth, who was to present a report accusing authorities of shackling nongovernmental organizations with burdensome regulations, said he immediately reapplied for a business visa but was again denied.

Silberstein received his most recent visa 10 wees ago, his third during his 2 1/2-year stint in Russia, Yakovlev said. He said he did not know what the rabbi had indicated as the purpose of his visit on previous visa applications.

Attempts to reach the court and Silberstein in Vladivostok, seven time zones east of Moscow, were unsuccessful Wednesday.

The Jewish community in Vladivostok numbers several thousand people, Yakovlev said.

In November, an unidentified assailant robbed Silberstein in central Vladivostok, hitting the rabbi in the head and fleeing with his bag and laptop computer, Yakovlev said.

Silberstein was hospitalized with a concussion after the attack, and local police opened an investigation into the incident, which Yakovlev said was a random attack that was not motivated by anti-Semitism.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow said it was aware of the case but could not immediately comment.