Chabad broke ground on a massive new educational complex in
the Azerbaijani capital of Baku.
At a May 31 ceremony attended by Azeri first lady Mehriban
Aliyeva, Chabad broke ground on the Ohr Avner Chabad Educational Complex, an 11-building
complex that includes a school, orphanage, shul and cultural center. According
to Avraham Berkowitz, executive director of
the Federation of Jewish Communities of the Former Soviet Union, a Chabad
umbrella organization, the complex will allow the school to expand its
capacity to 600 students from 400.
Although Azerbaijan is a predominantly Muslim country, the
Jewish community enjoys good relations with the government and reports of anti-Semitic
activities are few. Israeli oligarch Lev Leviev’s Ohr Avner Foundation and the
Gaidar Aliyev Foundation will jointly finance the $20 million project.
Following the meeting, a delegation including Leviev
attended a one-hour meeting with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev to discuss the
project, as well as continuing cooperation between the government and Jewish
The complex, on a 15,000-acre plot allotted to the community
by the president, is expected to open in the summer of 2008.