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Jewish Agency leaders gather in Kiev for landmark meeting

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(JTA) — At the Jewish Agency for Israel’s first Board of Governors meeting in the former Soviet Union, Natan Sharansky was elected to another term as the agency’s chairman.

Hundreds of leaders of Jewish and Zionist organizations from around the world arrived Sunday in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, for the board’s quarterly meeting.

Sharansky, chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency, said at the opening plenary that since the fall of the Iron Curtain, more than 1 million Jews from the former Soviet Union have immigrated to Israel.

He praised world Jewry for its contribution in helping the immigration, noting that the Jewish Agency and Jews all over the world had raised more than $1 billion for the cause.

The chief rabbi of Kiev and Ukraine, Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich in an address at the plenary said the meeting was one of the most important events in the 25-year history of the revitalized Jewish community in Kiev.

“That the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors — people who are active in helping our community — has come to visit our local Jewish community is of the utmost importance for us,” Bleich said. “We hope it will be as important for you to be here as it is for us to have you here.”

In Kiev, Board of Governors members will meet with senior Ukrainian officials and 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.

With some 200,000 people, the Jewish community in Ukraine is among the largest in the former Soviet Union.

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