leviav and rabbi eckstein.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
MOSCOW – Less than three months into the job, Dorit Golender, Israel’s new
ambassador to Moscow, has her hands full.
This week she’s had to balance
her time among at least three award-giving ceremonies held by Jewish
Of course, the official excuse for the close timing of the
events is Hanukka, which ends Thursday. But perhaps a better explanation might
be the less-than-covert competition that exists between the groups, their rabbis
and their patrons.
“As ambassador, I make an effort to have good
relations with all our communities,” Golender said diplomatically at the
Federation of Jewish Communities (FJC) in Russia and the Former Soviet Union’s
big event in Moscow on Monday. “Everyone can find their niche to get in touch
with their Jewish identity.”
As a Russian-speaker deeply familiar with
the goings-on of the community, Golender knows better than to show a preference
for any one local Jewish organization. Born in Lithuania, then part of the
Soviet Union, she made aliya in 1967. For the past 16 years, she was the head of
Radio Reka, the mostly Russian- language station for immigrants in Israel. That
role eventually led to her being named the country’s ambassador to Moscow
earlier this year.
Asked what her top priority as ambassador would be,
she cited cultivating better financial cooperation between Israel and Russia, a
natural resources giant with seemingly endless reserves of oil and
“We’ve had a 45-percent increase in tourism to Israel from Russia
this past year alone,” she said. “I’d like to have more companies in Russia and
Israel cooperate more.”
Having grown up in the Soviet Union, Golender
comes with a great deal of knowledge about Russian-speaking Jewry. But the
community to which she has returned is not the one she left behind all those
“There’s a great awakening here,” she said. “There are
innumerable youth groups, people waiting in line to study Hebrew. Many Russians
are inquiring into the Jewish backgrounds of their fathers or mothers. Freedom
has changed everything, and being able to openly take part in Jewish activities
has made a huge difference.”
The event Golender attended seemed
indicative of the revival she mentioned. The massive theater inside the iconic
red walls of the Kremlin was filled to capacity with about 6,000 people who came
to hear Israeli singer David D’Or deliver his trademark falsetto renditions of
Jewish classics like “Hava Nagila,” and Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the
Fellowship of Christians and Jews, was presented with an award by FJC president
Lev Leviev for his charity’s donations to Russian Jewry.
ambassador had graciously agreed to talk to The Jerusalem Post
ceremony’s lasting longer than expected, and the interview was cut a bit short;
she apologized politely and said she and her husband had to leave. After all,
she’s a busy person. On Tuesday she has to be in St. Petersburg for another
award-giving ceremony by a Jewish organization.