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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Rabinovich on Moshe Kantor, the European Jewish Congress president: He “just sits behind a desk and does nothing and will do everything the Kremlin tells him.”

On Yaakov Dov Bleich, the U.S.-born chief rabbi of Ukraine: “Speaks no Russian and comes to Ukraine twice a year.”

And of American Jewish organizational leaders, Rabinovich says they “only want to be interviewed on television.”

Bleich told JTA he spends most of his time in Ukraine. A spokesperson for Kantor’s European Jewish Congress told JTA that Rabinovich’s statements are “unfounded and spurious allegations unworthy of comment.”

“This is a desperate attempt by Rabinovich to remain on the agenda one last time before his organization ceases to exist in the same way as many other fleeting organizations which come and go, causing confusion and embarrassment to the Jewish community and its relationship with European leaders,” the spokesperson said.

Joel Rubinfeld, a former leader of Belgian Jewry and current co-chair of the European Jewish Parliament, counts some successes of Rabinovich’s organization, notably securing the construction of Montenegro’s first modern synagogue and co-organizing the first European Jewish choir festival in Vienna.

Rubinfeld says Rabinovich’s contributions, his prickly style notwithstanding, are deeply appreciated by Jewish communities, particularly in locales with limited resources that had suffered for decades under communist rule.

“Vadim is both a builder and a bulldozer,” Rubinfeld said, “and as such I think he sees life in a rather geometric manner. He always takes the shortest distance between two points. Some cherish him for it, others resent him.”


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