“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)
In the long history of Jews in Russia, the government has rarely been an ally, and often been the source of persecution. Current Russian president Vladimir Putin, however, is a powerful exception, with Jews playing a significant role in his personal history and his inner circle. With the Russian army a major player in the potentially explosive multi-national puzzle unfolding in Syria, this personal element could become an important, perhaps decisive, factor in how the conflict unfolds.
At the International Assembly of Chabad Representatives in 2007, Russia’s Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Berel Lazar, often referred to as “Putin’s Rabbi”, told a remarkable story about the Russian leader, which he heard from Putin himself.
“When he was a young child, he grew up in a very poor family. His parents were always out at work. He was fortunate that the next door neighbor was a Hasidic Jewish family, and they always made sure to invite him over,” Lazar explained. “They were extremely kind to him, and he realized that not only were they kind to a child that