I was humbled and honored this year to be elected to the volunteer position of the delegate to the 37th World Zionist Congress. It is an important international Jewish forum that has influence over Jewish Agency for Israel, Jewish National Fund and even over some policies of Israeli government as well as over world Jewish Diaspora. WZC has an annual budget of over $1 bln. and counts many Knesset members as its delegates.
Though our 14 delegates from the American Forum of the Russian speaking Jewry came to Jerusalem at the very challenging time of renewed terrorist attacks on innocent Israelis, we were warmly welcomed and enjoyed every minute of our visit. It was an unforgettable experience.
I participated in this unique and very important forum, met with many Israeli officials, visited a lot of neighborhoods in beautiful Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv.
Members of our delegation in Jerusalem listened to speeches by all major Israeli political figures - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Defense Minister Moshe Ayalon, Absorption Minister Zeev Elkin, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, Zionist Block Leader Chaim Herzog, Israel Beyteinu Leader Avigdor Liberman, and others. Our delegation joined forces with Yisrael Beytenu, Likud, Mizrachi, American Zionist Organization, other right wing and centrist factions.
We saw wonderful concerts and visited great Israeli cafes and restaurants. We talked to many people in Israel and expressed them our admiration and support. We also traveled to the South Israel where we attended a graduation ceremony of military school and a concert in a local village. We were impressed by the strength and patriotism of young Israeli officers and soldiers.
Alex Selsky (right) from Yisrael Beytenu at strategy session with Dr. Igor Branovan (left), Dmitry Shiglik (center) and other delegates.
I am very grateful to the American Forum of Russian speaking Jewry for the opportunity to be a part of such a historical event - World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem. Leaders of AFRJ - Dr. Igor Branovan, Dmitry Shiglik, Alex Rovt, Eugene Lekakh, Leonard Petlakh - played a crucial role in making sure our delegation would have a major influence and a strong voice at this important international forum.
It was great to have Gregory Davidzon, owner of influential 620 AM radio station, as part of our delegation. His radio and Reporter newspaper played a major role in promoting candidates from American Forum for Israel and activities of World Zionist Congress.
We worked in unity to prevent the passing of any anti-Israel resolutions (like “Hate Crimes against Palestinians”) and to pass resolutions against BDS (boycott of Israel). For the first time, the World Jewish Congress created a special committee on aliyah and Russian speaking Jewish communities abroad. Five Russian speaking delegates were elected to the WZC Board of Governors (!)
Our delegation was blessed to have my friend and colleague Margarita Kagan. She helped to set up travel and telephone arrangements, coordinated our activities and basically brought our Russian speaking delegation together.
I was happy to learn that Margarita Kagan, who is also a President of the American Association of Jews from the former USSR, was elected to the Board of Governors of the World Zionist Congress. She definitely deserved this honor. She brought money to wounded Israeli soldiers and visited their families. This money was raised by the American Association of Jews from the former USSR and by the American Association of WWII Veterans and Invalids from the former Soviet Union.
We felt that we accomplished our mission in supporting Israel and successfully representing hundreds of thousands of Russian speaking Jews at the 37th WZC. We publicly expressed the solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land.
Margarita Kagan and Gregory Davidzon
Ari Kagan with female Israeli officer
Praying at the Western Wall
Ari Kagan, a delegate of the 37th World Zionist Congress