The world of Jewish organizations founded and funded by wealthy businessman from
the former Soviet Union just got bigger.
At a party held on the 41st
floor of a new high-rise building overlooking Tel Aviv, financier and former
Russian parliamentarian Vladimir Sloutsker launched the Israeli Jewish Congress
on Sunday, a group he said would help foster ties between Israel and the
“We have a number of projects but the most interesting thing is
that the European community is thirsty for Israeli contact,” said the softly
spoken businessman who made aliya from Russia with his family last year. “They
simply have a lack of contacts.
Our purpose was to create such a partner,
so we are establishing ties.”
Asked to elaborate, Sloutsker said his
outfit was still forming its agenda. But ICJ’s CEO Michel Gourary, an old hand
in European Jewish politics, laid out two targets.
“We are trying to
lobby the Knesset to pass a law that will have the government pay for the burial
in Israel of victims of terror attacks that took place overseas,” he
“The other initiative is to get more European countries, like
Greece, to pass a law forbidding the denial of the Holocaust.”
upscale gathering, which featured a string quartet playing Vivaldi’s Four
Seasons and waiters serving sushi and kebabs, was attended by Public Diplomacy
and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein and Vice Premier Silvan
“I think Sloutsker’s decision is important,” Shalom said. “His
will to contribute is proven and I welcome his decision to create this forum. I
want to be a part of it.”
Sloutsker, who was a member of Russia’s Senate
between 2002 and 2010, has been involved in Jewish politics and philanthropy for
more than a decade. He was formerly part of the Russian Jewish Congress and
later the vice president of the European Jewish Congress, a group now headed by
Russian-born businessman Moshe Kantor. Asked if there was overlap between his
new organization and the EJC, which is also dedicated to building bridges
between Israel and Europe, Sloutsker said he was interested in cooperation, not
The EJC did not respond to an inquiry about the ICJ on
Wednesday. The ICJ is the latest in a list of organizations formed by rich
Jewish businessman from the former Soviet Union. Earlier this year, Ukrainian
real estate magnate Alexander Levine founded the World Forum of Russian Jewry in
New York. Last year Ukrainian businessmen Igor Kolomoisky and Vadim Rabinovich
jointly launched the European Jewish Union. It joined the likes of the
aforementioned EJC and the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, also led by affluent
businessmen from the FSU.
Despite the abundance of Jewish groups,
Sloutsker said he thought there was a real need for the ICJ. Shia Segal, one of
his advisers, said his boss held talks with World Jewish Congress officials in
New York last week in a bid to have his organization become an
“It’s too early to tell what will come of it,” he said. “In
any case right now [Sloutsker] is more interested in the ICJ’s content than
Jewish organizations dependent on the generosity of a
single businessman are often set up to much fanfare but die quiet
The Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, for instance, has become largely
dormant since its patron Alexander Machkevitch quit last summer. But Sloutsker
vowed he was here for the long run.
“I am here to stay and try my best to
create a better future for Israel,” he said.
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