Brash Ukraine Oligarch Vadim Rabinovich Challenges Europe's Jewish Leaders

Upstart Calls Out Establishment — Even After Assassination Try

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By Cnaan Liphshiz

Published October 30, 2013.
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“You will find accusations against me in the U.S. In Israel, some say I am connected to the mafia. In Ukraine, they say I am Mossad agent, if you find this kind of nonsense interesting,” Rabinovich said. “I don’t.”

Following his release in 1991, Rabinovich began to amass a fortune as a metals dealer operating in the economic free-for-all after the collapse of the Soviet Union. By 1995, he began pouring millions into Jewish causes.

“After I turned 40, I made a discovery that there is such a thing called Torah,” he said. “It led me in all kinds of new directions.”

Rabinovich says he puts on tefillin and prays every morning. He also hosts friends at his house every Friday, where he leads a discussion on the weekly Torah portion.

In 1997 he founded the All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress, which has an annual budget of $3 million, and still serves as its president. He has sponsored Limmud Jewish learning conferences, provided security services to Jewish schools in Ukraine and started JN1, the world’s first 24-hour Jewish news network.

In 2010, Rabinovich and Igor Kolomoisky, a friend and business partner, tried to take over the helm of a long-running Jewish organization, the European Council of Jewish Communities, but were stymied when board members staged a walkout after Kolomoisky was appointed president outside traditional nominating procedures. Detractors said Rabinovich played a key role in what they described as a “hostile takeover” of the organization.

So Rabinovich started his own organization the following year, calling it the European Jewish Parliament and setting up offices in Kiev and Brussels and a board of 120 members. Critics laughed it off as a farce, noting that the group’s initial nominees included celebrities such as soccer star David Beckham, filmmaker Roman Polanski and actor Sacha Baron Cohen – who didn’t even know they were candidates.

“Clearly, the principle of representation is lacking from this organization – which, like other groups, is no more than a vehicle for the ego of its creator,” Edwin Shuker, the London-based vice president of the European Jewish Congress, told JTA.

But Rabinovich, whose organization has lobbied European governments on Jewish issues, is unfazed by such criticism. In fact, he doles it out just as readily.


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