Rabbi Pinchas Berel Lazar was born on 19 May 1964 (8 Sivan 5724) in Milan, Italy, into the family of a rabbi of the local Jewish community. In 1978, after graduating from a Jewish day school, he enrolled in the Rabbinical College in New Jersey. In 1982, he continued his studies at the Talmudical academy Yeshiva Tomchei Tmimim in New York City, and in 1988 he was ordained with the qualification of dayan, a religious judge.
Rabbi Berel Lazar visited Russia for the first time in 1988. A year later, the leader of the Chabad-Lubavich movement, Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson blessed him for an endeavour to revive the Jewish religious life in the Soviet Union, and in 1989 Rabbi Lazar arrived in Moscow. In 1990, he became Rabbi of the synagogue in Maryina Roshcha district of Moscow. Since 1995, he has headed the Union of Rabbis of the CIS. In 1999 he was elected Chief Rabbi of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia.
In 2000, Rabbi Berel Lazar obtained Russian citizenship. In the same year at the Congress of the Jewish Communities of Russia, he was elected Chief Rabbi of Russia. By decree of the Russian President Vladimir Putin, in 2001 Rabbi Berel Lazar joined the Council for Cooperation with Religious Associations under the President of the Russian Federation.
On 2 July 2002, at the founding congress of the World Forum of Russian-Speaking Jewry in Moscow, Rabbi Berel Lazar was elected Chairman of the Rabbinical Council of this international organization. One of his duties in this position is provide regular and objective updates to the international community about the situation with the Jewish community in Russia and the opposition of public authorities to manifestations of anti-Semitism.
At present, under religious patronage of Rabbi Berel Lazar, Jewish communities have been revived in more than 350 cities of Russia and the CIS; national schools and kindergartens operate, rabbis work in dozens of cities, synagogues and charitable organizations function.
By decree of the Russian President of 30 March 2004 (8 Nisan 5764) Rabbi Berel Lazar was awarded the Order of Friendship “for merits in the development of spiritual culture and strengthening friendship among peoples.”
By decree of the Russian President of 30 April 2014 (30 Nisan 5774) Rabbi Berel Lazar was awarded Order for Merit to the Fatherland, 4th degree “for the achieved success in labour, significant contribution to the socio-economic development of the Russian Federation, achievements in the humanitarian sphere, strengthening of law and order, responsible longstanding work, effective legislative and public activity.”
Rabbi Berel Lazar is fluent in Italian, English, Russian, Hebrew and Yiddish. He is married and has 13 children.