As Chelsea FC’s billionaire owner Roman Abramovich is set to be recognised by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FJCR) for his philanthropy – the Jewish News hears how the billionaire enjoys making a positive contribution to world Jewry and why he looks up to Maimonides for a bit of inspiration.
While notoriously shy in terms of not only giving interviews to the media, but revealing the extent of his philanthropy, it was revealed this week by the FJCR that the Russian oligarch – who is also its chairman – has donated more than £366m to Jewish communities in Russia, Israel and other countries around the world.
Despite there being practical silence from the Abramovich camp, his spokesman John Mann, has now spoken exclusively to Jewish News and has revealed one of the reasons why he decides to keep schtum, in doing so, citing the medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher.
“Maimonides wrote that giving anonymously is a higher level of tzedakah”, Mann says. “However, he also wrote that forming a partnership with people in need and helping them achieve self-sustainability is the highest form of charity and I hope that’s something we’ve achieved with the Federation.”
Despite his reluctance to go public, others are though quick to praise him, including the FJCR president Rabbi Alexander Boroda. He says: “We have experienced a strong reappearance of Jewish communities in Russia over these past 20 years, and much of it has been made possible thanks to generous contributions like the one of Mr Abramovich. This has allowed us to carry out educational and cultural work helping Jewish communities across the country”
While he has opted to keep quiet until now, he doesn’t have an issue with his efforts being publicised. Mann says: “It’s true that Roman has never been one to publicise his charitable giving. In recent years we have begun letting recipients of his sponsorship publicise those gifts, but only because they tell us that the acknowledgement can help bring attention to their project or event.
“It’s a positive thing if the publication of Mr Abramovich’s philanthropy has the effect of focusing attention on the good work carried out by the Federation of Jewish Communities throughout Russia and abroad, the organisation has not only been involved in the successful promotion and development of Jewish life in Russia, but also in providing assistance to those in need throughout the country.”
Saying how he enjoys making a positive impact as well as keeping in touch with all the communities he supports – including all 160 Jewish ones in Russia, Mann adds: “Mr Abramovich enjoys it when his involvement can make a visible, positive impact, so it is gratifying to see the measurable growth and progress of the Federation in Russia as well as the success of projects abroad.
“Roman travels extensively so I’m sure he’s had an opportunity to visit some of the communities, but we’re also fortunate to have the Federation of Jewish Communities carrying out many of these projects and we’re always kept up to date with the progress of projects he has funded.”
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