By COLlive reporter
In the 1970s, Rabbi Zev Vagner was placed in a mental institution by Russian authorities because he applied for permission to leave the Soviet Union.
A delegation from the U.N Human Rights Commission was visiting Moscow at the time and the Russians didn’t want them meeting Vagner and hearing about his quest to immigrate to Israel.
This past Friday, Rabbi Vagner, who has since returned to service the Jewish communities in Central Russia, was told he must leave the country within 2 weeks.
A short while before Shabbos, police officials came to the home of Rabbi Vagner in the city of Tula and handed him an eviction notice by the court, the Israeli website hidabroot.org reported.
A hearing for an appeal won’t be scheduled until the end of January 2015 due to the holidays that are celebrated in Russia during this period, the website said.
“This means that the date of expulsion will be long before the beginning of the hearing of the appeal and it is unclear whether or not to be postponed,” it reported.
The Russian-born Chabad rabbi grew up in a a traditional Jewish home, where holidays were celebrated and traditions quietly observed, Chabad.org wrote. He was among the few young people to attend services at Moscow’s Choral Synagogue.
In his youth, he received guidance from Grand Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel of Machnovka, who had been exiled by the Soviets for his continued efforts on behalf of Judaism.
Vagner and his wife Mrs. Irina Vagner were advised to attach himself to the local Chabad Chassidim. They became close to Rabbi Schneur Pinsky, a Chassid who spent many years in the gulag labor camps for his “counterrevolutionary activities.”
After living in Jerusalem, teaching Torah to Russian speaking Jews and publishing Russian Jewish books, Rabbi Vagner was blessed by the Rebbe with success for outreach to Jews in the U.S.S.R. So he made arrangements to return to Moscow in 1989.
In recent years, Vagner began to serve as traveling rabbi for many cities in Central Russia that were without one of their own. One of the Jewish communities he would visit was Tula, a city with 5,000 Jewish people situated 200 kilometers south of Moscow.
In celebration of the Vagners’ 60th birthdays (they were born two months apart) in 2011, the Tula Jewish community dedicated a new Torah scroll. It was an incentive to get the couple to move to Tula permanently. Rabbi Vagner continued to service the community even after his wife passed away this year.
Yehudit Vagner, his daughter who lives in Israel, accused an unnamed person with informing the Russian authorities that her father was involved in so-called missionary work, which is outlawed.
“There was an individual in the community who didn’t like the idea and started harassing my father,” Yehudit told the Hidabroot website this week.
“He took advantage of the fact that my father had a tourist visa in the last month and a half, after his permanent working visa has expired and was not yet renewed,” she said.