The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI, Hasochnut Hayehudit) kicked off its three-day Board of Governors meeting in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev on Sunday.
During opening remarks, Chairman Natan Sharansky said the agency, representing Jewish communities from around the world, has helped more than a million Jews from the former Soviet Union (FSU) emigrate to Israel since the fall of the Iron Curtain, noting that JAFI raised more than a billion dollars for the effort.
Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver noted the agency's cooperation with government, adding that immigrants have strengthened Israel with their various professions, including medicine and science.
Sunday marked the first time the Board of Governors' meeting has been held in the FSU and not in Israel as a matter of solidarity with the local Jewish community against a backdrop of anti-Semitism. Ukrainian Chief Rabbi Ya'akov Bleich called it one of the most important gatherings in the 25-year history of the renewed community.
The opening session of the meeting was sponsored by The World Forum of Russian Jewry headed by the American-Ukrainian businessman and philanthropist, Alexander L. Levin.
The Board of Governors is comprised of Jewish and Zionist organizations from around the world and meets three times a year, traditionally in Jerusalem, to hold in-depth strategic discussions about issues affecting Israel and the Jewish world and to set policy for the Jewish Agency.
During the meeting in Kiev members of the Board of Governors will meet with senior Ukrainian officials and with leaders of the Ukrainian Jewish community. They will be briefed about Jewish Agency programs and activities in Ukraine and will attend a ceremony at Babi Yar in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.
The Jewish community in Ukraine is one of the largest in the former Soviet Union and numbers around 200,000. Hundreds of Jewish and Zionist leaders worldwide will learn about Jewish communal life in the region as a result of the gathering.