The Jewish Agency for Israel is convening its June Board of Governors meeting this week in Kiev, Ukraine. During the meeting, hundreds of leaders from Jewish and Zionist organization from across the globe and Israel will learn about Jewish communal life in the region. This will be the first time that a Board of Governors meeting will take place in the former Soviet Union and only the second time in decades the meetings have taken place outside of Israel.

Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky said that the decision to hold the meeting in Kiev was part of The Jewish Agency’s efforts to strengthen its connection with the Jewish communities of the former Soviet Union. The meeting is also a reflection of the shared destiny and the solidarity between world Jewry and Ukrainian Jewry.

Today’s opening session will be sponsored by The World Forum of Russian Jewry, which is headed by the American-Ukrainian businessman and philanthropist, Alexander L. Levin and will also be attended by Ukrainian government officials.

The scheduling of Jewish Agency Board meetings in the FSU has not been without controversy. Back in February, Josef Zissels – Chairman of Vaad of Ukraine – in a widely circulated letter, advocated for cancelling the upcoming session due to, as he described, the “challenges and risks … in holding the next Session of the Board of the Jewish Agency in Ukraine”. And, back in February 2010, The Agency cancelled a scheduled meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, due to “some outstanding issues regarding the legal status for the Jewish Agency in Russia.”

The Jewish community in Ukraine is one of the largest in the former Soviet Union and numbers around 200,000. Since the beginning of the wave of Aliyah from the former Soviet Union in 1989, 330,000 Ukrainian’s have immigrated to Israel.