Russia Nixes Jewish Agency February Meetings

The Jewish Agency had planned to hold their February Board of Governors Meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia. Apparently the Russian government was not in agreement. Here’s the letter that just went out to those attending.

Following the letter, is the translation of an article from today’s Maariv about the meetings and those attending.

Also see our post, The Jewish Agency: Bold Gamble or Huge Miscalculation?

Dear Friends,

We are extremely disappointed and very much regret to have to advise you that following recent developments in our contacts with the Russian Foreign Ministry, we have decided to move our Board of Governors meeting from St. Petersburg to Jerusalem.

Preparations for the meeting in St. Petersburg began three months ago in coordination with the Israeli Foreign Ministry and with office of the Governor in St Petersburg.

Two weeks ago we were advised for the first time about some outstanding issues regarding the legal status for the Jewish Agency in Russia. We immediately submitted all the required documentation and have since been waiting for an official response. In the interim we have received numerous unofficial messages but no clear answer. Today we heard via the office of the Israeli Ambassador in Moscow that the Russian Foreign Ministry still maintains that our legal status in Russia is not adequate for convening a meeting of the Board of Governors.

In light of this and in order to avoid last minute complications we have decided to convene the Board on the planned dates at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem. We are aware that this causes great inconvenience to all of us. We also know that you understand the extenuating circumstances.

The presence in Jerusalem of each and every one of you is highly important to us and very much look forward to seeing all of you.

We are in the process of making alternative arrangements for the Board of Governors meeting and will be in touch shortly.


Richard Pearlstone / Natan Sharansky

the Maariv article:

Jewish Agency Chairman’s Billionaires’ Conference

For many years, they refused to be identified with Zionism or aliyah. But soon a long list of oligarchs from Russia and the Ukraine will take part in the Jewish Agency’s conference

By Eli Bardenstein

Jewish oligarchs, most of whom had refused up till now to work with the Jewish Agency, are expected to take part for the first time in a public event identifying with Israel, Zionism and aliyah. This will take place in three weeks in St. Petersberg. The person who succeeded in bringing the oligarchs together with the divided Jewish community of Russia and the Ukraine was the Chairman of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky.

The achievement is also significant in that the last time the Jewish Agency held a meeting of its Board of Governors outside Israel was in the 1980’s. Among the oligarchs invited to the opening night: Mikhail Fridman (with 6.3 billion dollars according to Forbes), who heads a large Russian corporation involving oil, media and banking and who set up Genesis, one of the most important organizations in the world supporting Jewish education among the Russian speaking Jewish communities. Also Fridman’s partner, German Khan (with 4 billion dollars) has been invited. Victor Pinchuk (with 2.68 billion dollars), known as the second richest person in the Ukraine and closely connected to Shimon Peres, as well as Igor Kolomoisky from the Ukraine (1.2 billion) who heads his own enormous corporation and is seen as the largest donor to the Jewish community of Dniepropetrovsk, are also on the list of invitees.

Among the two main donors to the conference are the oligarch Alexander Mashkevich (1 billion) who heads the Eurasian Jewish Congress, and Yuri Kanner, who heads the Russian Jewish Congress, each of whom donated $150,000 so that the meetings can take place.

Also Lev Leviev and a string of local multi-millionaires such as Vadim Rabinowitz, Alexander Feldman, Senator Boris Spiegel and many others are expected to take part in the event. Israeli Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver is also expected to take part, as are representatives of the Foreign Ministry and leading rabbis.

“It is symbolic that after Sharansky was in the Siberian gulag for nine years, he comes as the Chairman of the Jewish Agency and decides to hold the first Board of Governors meeting of the Jewish Agency in Russia”, explains a Jewish Agency source, “and succeeds in bringing with him a group of wealthy Jewish leaders from the FSU who until now were not interested in working with the organization”.

“The importance in holding the conference in Russia is to bring back the Jewish Agency’s glory days of activity in the area, something that Sharansky has put on the agenda of the Jewish Agency”, clarified a source in the Jewish Agency.

The excitement in the Jewish Agency at the possibility of bringing in new donors is great, since the organization currently faces a serious financial crisis, after North American fundraisers recently said they would again make a cut in the funds they committed to transfer to the organization in 2009, after already having cut tens of millions of dollars.

Here’s additional insight from The Fundermentalist:

Jewish Agency blames Russian government