A Russian businessman,Viatcheslav Kantor, is on a mission to turn wealthy Russian Jews into major political and philanthropic forces. Mr. Kantor, an agrochemical magnate who chairs the 100-member Russian Jewish Congress, was in America this week to discuss strengthening Russia’s Jewish lobby, and encouraging charitable giving among Russian Jews.
Mr. Kantor, 52, said the Jewish lobby in Russia “doesn’t exist at all as a separate political power,” but that a surge of anti-Semitic attacks in recent years has highlighted the need for the community to strengthen its relationship with the Kremlin.
“Sooner or later, public anti-Semitism can be converted into government anti-Semitism,” he told The New York Sun. “We want to fight on a systematic basis, and we’re not limiting ourselves to fighting anti-Semitism.”
The Russian government’s decision to host leaders of the terrorist group Hamas and its vow to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution that would impose economic sanctions against Iran are part of a political strategy, said Mr. Kantor.
“When Americans or Great Britons hear from the Iranian president, they say, ‘We will have nothing to do with this guy,’ and to isolate him immediately,” he said. “The Russian doctrine is to be close to the danger, to be close to the enemy, so that you can control it.”
Mr. Kantor – who divides his time between Moscow, Tel Aviv, and Geneva – left New York yesterday for Washington, where he planned to meet with government officials. While in New York earlier this week, he met with Jewish community leaders to share his vision for collaborative philanthropic efforts.
He discussed his plans for a Moscow-based summit that would bring together Russian and American Jewish leaders, and for a recently established philanthropic endowment fund, which he hopes will serve as a vehicle for Russian charitable giving. The fund’s proceeds will go toward identity-building initiatives, aimed at chipping away at what he called “the heritage of Stalinism” that has left many weary of opening up about being Jewish, Mr. Kantor said.
“Those of us who worked for Soviet Jewry, worked for the day that Soviet Jews would contribute, not just to their own needs but to the world Jewish community,” the executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, said.