By Harut Sassounian
For several years, the government of Azerbaijan and its diplomats overseas have gone to great lengths to win over Jews worldwide, American Jewish organizations, and Israel.
Azerbaijan is simply copying Turkey’s sinister behavior that until recently wooed Jewish organizations in the United States and Israel’s government to block the passage of a congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Many Jewish groups ended their immoral cooperation with Turkey, after Turkish President Rejep Tayyip Erdogan began making anti-Semitic statements and threatening Israel.
Just like Turkey, Azerbaijan’s outreach to Jewish organizations and Israel is based on the typical anti-Semitic belief that Jews control American politicians and it is therefore in Azerbaijan’s interest to be on the good side of ‘powerful’ Jews. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “many countries nurture their relationship to Israel in hopes of finding favor with influential American Jewish organizations who will in turn speak well of them to the U.S. government.”
Furthermore, Azerbaijan’s pro-Jewish efforts are based on the fact that it purchases billions of dollars of modern weapons from Israel. In return, Azerbaijan sells a large amount of oil to Israel. There have been also intelligence reports that Azerbaijan has provided Israel with several bases on its border with Iran, should Israel decide to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The latest example of the collaboration between American Jewish leaders and Azerbaijan is the visit to Baku on March 3-8 by a group of U.S. evangelical pastors led by New York-based Orthodox Rabbi Marc Schneier “to promote interfaith dialogue and highlight cooperation with Israel,” according to the Associated Press. This was the first ever evangelical delegation to visit the Muslim Shiite nation. The Rabbi described Azerbaijan as “the most beloved and respected Muslim country in the eyes of the Jewish American community,” reported Trend, an Azeri news agency. Schneier spoke at an event in the U.S. Congress last year celebrating the close friendship between Azerbaijan and Israel.
The group of 12 U.S. evangelical pastors met Pres. Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, the foreign minister, Muslim Sheikhs, local church leaders, and Israel’s ambassador. Rabbi Schneier told the Associated Press that Pres. Aliyev “announced during the delegation’s visit that the country’s first-ever Jewish cultural center would be built in Baku with Kosher dining options and a hotel to accommodate Jewish guests.” Schneier heads the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding based in New York and founded the Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach, New York. As a sign of their cozy relationship, Azerbaijan’s national airline flies directly to Tel Aviv and Pres. Aliyev hosted Israel’s prime minister in 2016.
Not surprisingly, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov took advantage of his meeting with the evangelical leaders to disparage Armenia and distort the facts of the Artsakh conflict. He said, “the recent statements of the Armenian leadership highlighted that such statements undermine the peace process.”
Pastor Adam Mesa, who leads the Abundant Living Family Church in Rancho Cucamonga, California, told the Associated Press that it was his first time in a Muslim majority country. The pastor said he was encouraged to take part in the trip because of Azerbaijan’s supportive Israeli stance and interreligious efforts. “It’s incredible that a Muslim majority country is the one that has to actually lead the charge on religious dialogue and community and solidarity.”
Rabbi Schneier confirmed to the Associated Press the political agenda behind the religious group’s visit: “from a political point of view, listen there is no question you know that Azerbaijan is looking to strengthen its relationship with the U.S. administration, with the United States Congress. Israel is very much a conduit to that.”
As in the case of Cong. Alcee Hastings, Azerbaijan seems to have picked another disgraced individual to disseminate its propaganda. The 60-year-old Rabbi Schneier has been married six times, the last on March 2017. In February 2018, the State of Florida ordered Schneier to pay $5,000 a month for $64,594 in unpaid child support he owed to his third wife for the care of their 19-year-old son. Rabbi Schneier was expelled in June 2015 by the Rabbinical Council of America for breaching the code of ethics by carrying on an extramarital relationship. In June 2010, the Rabbi announced to his congregation that he was suffering from “bipolar disorder.”
According to Wikipedia, “under pressure from his congregation for his multiple divorces and philandering, Schneier resigned in 2016 from his pulpit position at the Hampton Synagogue, which he had founded in 1990. Congregants had threatened to withhold pledges and payments until he left the synagogue.”
The New York Post reported that after cheating on his third wife, Rabbi Schneier in 2006 married Tobi Rubinstein, “a sexy worshipper,” who became wife No. 4. “In 2010, Tobi hired a private investigator who turned up explicit photos of her husband and Gitty Leiner, a then-30-something worshipper, getting hot and heavy in the Holy Land on what Schneier had told his wife was a routine business trip. Marriage No. 4 ended in divorce soon after.” The Rabbi ended up marrying Gitty Leiner in 2013 — wife No. 5. The couple had a child in 2014, “but then in 2015, Schneir was caught dining out in Queens with sexy young Simi Teitelbaum” who became his sixth wife in 2017! Interestingly, The Post reported that “Schneier explained away his unholy extramarital hookups by saying he was mentally ill and seeking treatment.”
Rabbi’s ex-wife Toby Gotesman told the Post: “When I left him, he was making $800,000 … that included a $500,000 salary, plus hundreds of thousands in additional compensation, including mortgage payments on his 5,000-square-foot Westhampton Beach home, said to be valued at around $3 million.”
Rabbi Schneier’s visit to Azerbaijan last week was not his first. He has been there several times in recent years on propaganda tours. One wonders if the Rabbi has received any compensation from Pres. Aliyev for his ‘valuable’ services. His multiple trips to Azerbaijan makes the Rabbi look more like a lobbyist for Azerbaijan than a religious figure!
I would urge Armenian evangelical church leaders to contact the 12 pastors who visited Baku last week in order to counter the propaganda they were fed against Armenia and Artsakh. I would also like to know if these pastors and Rabbi Schneier came back from Baku with suitcases full of the usual Azeri “gifts” of caviar, rugs, and other valuable items!