Israeli institutions hit Russian oligarch donors on sanctions

JERUSALEM (AP) – Billionaire Moshe Kantor has severed his long-standing ties to Tel Aviv University – joining a growing list of Russian Jewish oligarchs who have scaled back their philanthropic activities after coming under international sanctions for their ties to President Vladimir Putin.

The Sanctions have shaken up the Jewish philanthropy of the world, which relies heavily on deep-pocketed donors like Kantor, and forced a number of prominent organizations with abruptly end partnerships from Russia to invade Russia. 24.

Kantor, a Russian fertilizer magnate who also holds the British citizenship, served as the longtime president of the European Jewish Congress, emerging as an outspoken fighter against antisemitism. He founded or led a number of other important Jewish causes, including the World Holocaust Forum, served on the Council of Israel’s National Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem and the Kantor Center for Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University.

But Kantor early this month on the United Kingdom imposed sanctions, 15 years after he was abruptly stepped down by the European Jewish Congress. Tel Aviv University confirmed this week that Kantor’s name had been removed from the Center for Jewish Studies, just days before its annual report on global antisemitism.

A spokeswoman said through a statement that Kantor had asked for his own initiative on a number of organizations.

“Dr. Kantor voluntarily stepped back with immediate effect from the European Jewish Congress, the World Holocaust Forum Foundation and the Kantor Center in order to distract from the important work of this organization, ”the statement said.

Kantor, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes to be $ 4.6 billion, joins a number of wealthy Russian-Jewish businessmen who have sanctioned their purported ties over the West.

Yad Vashem said last month it was suspending a reported donation of tens of dollars from Roman Abramovich, owner of the Chelsea Football Club, after he was sanctioned by the UK and European Union. It cited “Recent developments.”

Three other oligarchs have been sanctioned by the West – Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan – abruptly resigned from the Genesis Philanthropy Group last month. In an email sent to its supporters, the group said the men had “left to GPG to stay true to its mission.” It made no mention of sanctions.

The group funds projects to strengthen Jewish communities and causes around the world. The three men were also involved in the Genesis Prize – an annual award established with a $ 100 million endowment that recognizes a person’s professional achievements and commitment to Jewish values.

Past winners of the $ 1 million prize include actor Michael Douglas, filmmaker Steven Spielberg and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. This year’s laureate is Albert Bourlathe chief executive of drug maker Pfizer, who is expected to come to Jerusalem in June for an award ceremony.

The oligarchs have claimed the sanctions are unfair. Some, such as Fridman, have even spoken out against the Russian war against Ukraine, while Abramovich has tried to position himself as a peacemaker. between the warring countries.

Ariel Muzicant, interim president of the European Jewish Congress, said that the organization was shocked by Kantor, who “has dedicated his life to the fight against antisemitism, Holocaust commemoration and the security of Europe’s Jewish communities.”

“It’s very sad and disturbing that Dr. Kantor, who has over 15 years in Europe against antisemitism and the flourishing of Jewish life in Europe, has been sanctioned with no evidence-based merit, causing great damage to many people and organizations, ”he said.

Many Jewish oligarchs have close ties with Israel, spending time in the country and even holding citizenship. That has created a delicate situation For the country, which was established as a safe haven for the West, but with close ties to the West, especially the US

Israeli leaders have said that they will not allow the country to be used in the context of international sanctions, although some oligarchs have reportedly spent more time in Israel. Abramovich, who took Israeli Citizenship in 2018, has recently been spotted at Israel’s International Airport.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, a Jewish American philanthropist, said the troubles of the oligarchs have created “an enormous challenge for the nonprofits that rely on their goodwill.”

Bernie Madoff, who squandered the fortune of many Jewish charities in the late 2000s in the aftermath of The Crisis to the Crisis. She said that many charitable groups, including those who were robbed of funding, were forced to close, consolidate or lay off workers.

Mizrahi said a debate among professionals in the philanthropic world of donor money “is a very big way to go.”

But she said that given the controversial origins of so many fortunes over the years, going back to industrialists like Henry Ford or Andrew Carnegie, she’s looking to make it more important that charitable funds are distributed. She said it is particularly critical that charitable programs play a role in their decisions.

“The best solution is not to say, ‘I will take the money from an A, B, C or D individual,'” she said. Instead, she said, the goal should be to use the money “in the best way to make the world a better place.”

But Anshel Pfeffer, a columnist with the Haaretz daily, wrote recently that the oligarchs have “polluted institutions with their dirty money.”

He said the war in Ukraine is a “rude awakening to the breadth and depth of the effect of the oligarchic class on the Jewish world.”


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