Global 'club' founded for Russian-Jewish MPs

Forum signals community's growing unity.

Zeev Elkin 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Zeev Elkin 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A new international group of Russian-speaking Jewish parliamentarians is a sign of the growing organization and self-awareness of Russian Jewry worldwide, according to Zeev Elkin, a Kadima MK who participated in the founding meeting of the "club" late last week in Kiev. The group is an initiative of Boris Spiegel, a Russian senator and businessman who has been president of the World Congress of Russian Jewry since November, and Ukrainian MP Aleksander Feldman, president of the Jewish Foundation of Ukraine. The goal is to facilitate conversation on issues shared by Russian Jewry, "helping to advance the Russian-speaking community in Israeli society and in international Jewish organizations, and strengthening the connection of Diaspora communities with Israel," Elkin told The Jerusalem Post. According to a statement by the World Congress of Russian Jewry, the parliamentarians will "deal with legislative issues, as well as discuss present-day problems facing Russian-speaking Jewry," and the club will "facilitate dialogue and understanding between countries in which substantial numbers of Russian-speaking Jews reside." Some two million Russian-speaking Jews, many of them highly trained professionals, left the former Soviet Union during the 1990s. Estimates speak of over a million in Israel, some 200,000 in Germany and perhaps 600,000 in the United States. Outside Israel, this group has had trouble integrating into local Jewish communities, and demographers have found high levels of assimilation both in Germany and the US. Eight of the 15 assembled parliamentarians at the Kiev meeting were Israeli, including Kadima's Elkin and Marina Solodkin, Amnon Cohen (Shas), Yuli Edelstein (Likud) and four MKs from Israel Beitenu, Sofa Landver, Lia Shemtov, Alex Miller and Yosef Shagal. One representative came from the US - New York State Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny - and another from Germany, a senior official in the Social Democratic Party. The Ukrainian delegation was represented by Feldman, who is considered close to the current prime minister. Additional parliamentarians from Russia and Latvia sent good wishes but did not attend last week's meeting. The next meeting of the parliamentary club will be held in Jerusalem in May, when the group will meet on the sidelines of a massive World Congress of Russian Jewry event celebrating Israel's 60th anniversary.