MOSCOW – To mark the end of Hanukka, Russian “oligarch” and Jewish
philanthropist Alexander Mashkevich invited Moscow’s elite to the annual
reception of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress at the city’s prestigious Safisa
Palace banquet hall on Thursday night.
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With some of the Russian capital’s
richest and most powerful residents in attendance, Mashkevich called for an
emergency fund-raising drive to aid Israel in recovering from the Carmel forest
fire and announced a project to bring hundreds of European members of parliament
to the Jewish state on a solidarity mission in February.
started out as a philology professor in his native Kyrgyzstan and became a
billionaire through investments in Kazakhstan during perestroika, sprung up on
the Jewish philanthropic scene a decade ago.
A major shareholder in the
Eurasian National Resources Corporation, one of the world’s leading natural
resources groups, with direct access to decision-makers in Israel and across the
former USSR, Mashkevich, nearly single handedly, created the Euro- Asian Jewish
Congress, turning it into a proactive organization on the European stage and
providing a voice to the region’s resurging Jewish
Thursday’s reception, which was jointly organized with the
Moscow Jewish Religious Community, featured the cream of the city’s business,
cultural and Jewish spiritual citizenry and gave the groups a chance to review
the years’ accomplishments and plans for the future.
Dressed in their
finest, men in tuxedos and women in formal dresses, Moscow’s rich and famous
climbed the red carpeted steps, past a giant and ornately decorated Christmas
tree, into the luxurious hall. With Jewish music playing in the background,
Mashkevich personally greeted all the arrivals as president of the EAJC and the
Upon being seated at tables laden with bountiful
kosher food and quality Israeli wines, the 600 guests were asked to address
their attention to the stage for three hours of speeches, award ceremonies and
The chief item on the agenda was the announcement of an
emergency fund-raising drive for United Israel Appeal- Keren Hayesod dedicated
to assisting the rehabilitation of Mount Carmel after last week’s forest
During the blaze, Mashkevich arrived in Israel at the behest of UIA
World Chairman Eliezer “Moodi” Sandberg, to provide financial and moral
Though it is not yet known how much money has been raised in
Russia and the region, Mashkevich estimated the amount at “several millions of
“The numbers are maybe not so important. What’s more important
is what the Diaspora, what people outside of Israel feel, when Israel is in
pain,” Mashkevich said in an interview to The Jerusalem Post. “The tragedy in
Israel has brought Jews around the world together.
Today we are talking
about a few millions of dollars, but I’m sure it is only the
Speaking about his experience during the recent visit,
Mashkevich said he was highly impressed by the way the Israeli government
handled the crisis.
“Israel may not have been ready to face this last
disaster, but no state in the world can predict everything. It’s
But the way the government reacted, the way they organized
everything, the effort they put towards battling the fire... I was excited,”
“The most important thing is how we react to
When I came, it was four days after the fire had started and
I was very proud of Israel. I was very proud of Jews. I was proud because the
organization was very good. Everybody knew their roles. It was organized like
clockwork. I am not sure that any other country could react in such a
In his address to the audience, he described the EAJC’s role as
“Doing everything possible to improve Jewish life.”
This, according to
Mashkevich, means battling anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of Israel in
Europe and Asia.
Mashkevich said that therefore, he had set the goal of
bringing to Israel in February a delegation of 500+ European politicians on a
“Europe today has become the main area of fighting
between anti-Semites and people who support Israel. The media in Europe today
hates Israel. That is why our target is to explain to the members of
parliaments, to inform them, to convince them about Israel.
To explain to
them what Israel is, who Israelis are and what Israel’s policies are. The way we
do it is first of all by providing a lot of information,” Mashkevich
“We are not talking only about members of the European Parliament.
We are talking about members of all parliaments, of all the countries
represented in the European Union. We are talking about 500 out of approximately
8,000 people. Five hundred members of European parliaments is serious power.
That is why we have to show them what Israel really means, what Israel’s
policies mean,” Mashkevich said. “Only when they come to Israel and fall in love
with Israel, when they understand that Israel is a very peaceful country, they
will fight against the enemies of Israel.”
A representative of the
European Parliament, Antonyia Parvanova, from the Bulgarian Group of the
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, attended Thursday’s event on
behalf of the European Parliament and expressed her support for Israel and the
Jewish people. She also gave Mashkevich an honorary award on behalf of the EU’s
27 member states.
Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress,
attended the event and spoke about the importance of Jewish unity.
a privilege being here and seeing Jews working hard at returning Jewish life and
culture to Russia. I grew up in the United States after the Second World War,
witnessing how Jews had to give up on their rights and freedoms during the
Soviet era. It is remarkable to see Jews from Russia and the rest of the region
expressing their Judaism proudly and openly,” Rosen said.
still have battles to fight as we are witnessing a new breed of
Threats on Israel’s legitimacy and the threats of terror
and war bring us closer together and we have to continue fighting together as
Jews,” he said.
When asked what he planned for the future at the EAJC,
Mashkevich said he wanted less talk and more action.
“I don’t like when
people talk too much, I want to see action.
I think that any organization
and every person has to do something every day. Every day we have to do
something to make Jewish life better, to make Israel stronger. And then, after a
while of doing daily actions, you look back and see you’ve come a long way
already,” he said.
“We do what we do because we are Jewish people and
because we love Israel, not because it gives us any advantage.
only one important point. In the history of the Jewish world, when people became
passive, catastrophe came. Only a constant active position can lead us forward.”