Today the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS, together with Jews worldwide, remembers the former President and Prime Minister of Israel Mr. Shimon Peres, may his memory be a blessing, who has passed away last night.
During his time in public office and as a private figure, Mr. Peres was a great supporter of reviving Jewish communities throughout the FSU. He maintained close and personal connections with FJC’s president Mr. Lev Leviev and chief Rabbi Berel Lazar.
Over the decades, Mr. Peres cared for and visited the Jewish communities of the FSU on a multitude of occasions, both before and after the fall of the ‘Iron Curtain.’ He was the guest of honor at the inauguration of the Jewish museum in Moscow, he went to Estonia for Tallinn’s new synagogue opening, he spoke at the Jewish communities of Ukraine. But perhaps his most personal and emotional connection was the visit to FJC’s ‘Or Avner’ Jewish school in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2006, where he sang and danced with the little students.
Speaking at the convention of FJC rabbinical representatives that same year in Jerusalem, Mr. Peres talked about his hopes and aspirations for the revival of Jewish identity in the FSU. “When the students of the ‘Or Avner’ school sang those two songs in Hebrew I was touched to tears,” he said. “A Jew is he who comes from Jewish parents: in today’s reality I would say a Jew is he who worries that his children stay Jewish. If not for your actions, those children would be lost to Am Yisrael. You care that those children will stay Jewish – they are our future.”
“Your mission,” Mr. Peres continued, “to establish schools and community centers in most remote areas of the region to revive Jewish life is a holy one.” And today, as we remember Mr. Shimon Peres, these words continue to nurture FJC activities and be implemented in our everyday agenda.
FJC extends our condolences to Mr. Peres’ family, relatives and friends and all those who knew or were influenced by him. May you be comforted among the mourners of Zion.