Naming of Old City plaza after oligarch stirs debate

Vadim Rabinovich donated funds that helped rebuild Hurva Synagogue, but naming of square after him fraudulent, city councilwoman says.

Hurva Synagogue 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post)
Hurva Synagogue 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post)
When Ukrainian businessman Vadim Rabinovich died, they named a square after him in Jerusalem’s Old City thanking him for donating funds that helped rebuild the Hurva Synagogue.
But reports of his death were greatly exaggerated, to paraphrase Mark Twain.
Rabinovich, 58, is alive and well, and the naming of a square in one of Judaism’s prime real estate locations is being objected to in the High Court of Justice on grounds of fraudulence and character.
City councilwoman Rachel Azaria on Wednesday petitioned the court to rescind the naming of the square, saying it was done under the pretense that he had died and in gross violation of several municipal regulations.
Azaria, who is a member of the Yerushalmim faction in the council, said the proposal to rename the square referred to Vadim Rabinovich Z”L, a Hebrew abbreviation added to the names of the deceased. She said municipal regulations strictly prohibit naming streets and squares after people unless they have been dead for at least three years. She added that rules in the Old City were even more stringent and precluded naming a street or square after anyone who died after the year 1500.
“Jerusalem is fortunate to have many important donors who are worthy of being honored, but there are laws and rules and they must be obeyed,” Azaria said. “The fact that Rabinovich Square was named in a fraudulent and illegal process is deeply disturbing.
I am disappointed Mayor Nir Barkat was not as disturbed as we were about the naming process, and has not canceled the naming of the square. We believe that the High Court will do justice, and make sure that the naming process in Jerusalem will be legal and fair.”
There has also been debate over whether it is appropriate to name a prominent square overlooking the Western Wall after a man who is denied entry to the US for allegedly shady business dealings.
Rabinovich donated most of the money that helped rebuild the Jewish Quarter’s landmark Hurva Synagogue.
The municipality on Thursday did not answer questions on why it decided to name the square after Rabinovich and said it was reviewing Azaria’s claims.
“The issue is being examined by the legal counsel to the municipality, who is checking the procedure and its relation to the municipal regulations,” it said. “After the process is complete, we shall be able to answer further questions.”
An aide for Azaria, however, said the municipality was stalling, and that he was still waiting for answers to questions he submitted to it on the matter last month.