NEW YORK - The Russian community in New York is set to present the first-ever “Russian-American Person of the Year” awards this year in areas such as activism, education, media and philanthropy. The awards’ goal is to promote the accomplishments of Russian-speakers in the United States.
“The Russian-American Person of the Year program aims to highlight the tremendous contributions Russian- Americans have made on all aspects of life in the United States,” said Alexander Levin, president of the World Forum of Russian Speaking Jewry, at the opening ceremony of the 12th annual Russian Heritage Month at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last week.
The awards are to be facilitated by an advisory board that will include Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, radio and television host Larry King, New York consul-general Ido Aharoni, and Levin himself.
An online voting system will allow the two-million-strong Russian-speaking Americans to nominate people and vote for candidates.
While the awards will be presented by Jewish organizations – the World Forum of Russian Speaking Jewry and the American Council for World Jewry – they will be aimed at the general Russian community in the United States.
Speaking at the Metropolitan gala last week, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio made his first appearance to the Russian-speaking community in his new role.
De Blasio said that the museum was “a great place to think about the Russian impact on New York City, which is stronger every day, and goes well back into the 1800s.”
“This community, which I’ve gotten to know very well over the years, means so much to New York City,” he said. “It’s growing, it’s strong, it’s vibrant, and this community needs to know that the city government is focused on it. That hasn’t always been the case in the past, but we’re trying hard to change that.”
Levin, along with four others, was honored at the gala with an award for being a bridge-builder between communities.
The other honorees were Dr. Kairat Umarov, ambassador of Kazakhstan to the United States, David Hallberg, principal dancer of the Bolshoi Ballet and the American Ballet Theater and sculptor Boaz Vaadia, as well as the Russian American Officers Association.