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Jewish Agency to Establish New Group for Russia Operation

July 22, 1996
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The Jewish Agency for Israel is creating a new organization that emphasizes local leadership to take over its operation in Russia.

Establishment of the new group, the Jewish Agency in the Russian Federation, is intended to settle an ongoing dispute between the Jewish Agency and Russian authorities about the agency’s accreditation.

The agency’s decision to create a new body comes in the wake of the Russian Justice Ministry’s refusal last month to renew the accreditation, which was canceled in April.

The new organization will include both Russian and Israeli citizens as its co- founders, said Aryeh Sadeh, head of the agency’s delegation to the former Soviet Union.

Among the co-founders are Russia’s chief rabbi, Adolph Shayevich; Moscow’s chief rabbi, Pinchas Goldschmidt; the lawyer for the agency’s delegation in Moscow, David Akselband; and the agency’s financial director, Dani Pines.

“This new structure meets our general policy to be supported by local initiative,” Sadeh said.

By listing Russian nationals among its founders, the agency appears to be trying to change how its activities are perceived by Russian authorities.

Currently, authorities have been treating the agency as a foreign-based international organization founded by non-Russian citizens. That may be the reason why renewal of the agency’s accreditation has been held up for three months.

Last Friday, the new organization submitted its registration application to the Justice Ministry. The agency expects that approval will take a few weeks, though it is not yet clear whether Russian authorities are ready to process quickly a new set of documents.

Meanwhile, the United States has intervened in an effort to press Russia to resolve the dispute.

U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who was in Moscow last week, raised the question about the agency’s representation in his meeting with Russian Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin, who reportedly promised an expeditious resolution of this matter.

“Chernomyrdin assured us the issue would be resolved and resolved in a positive way,” said Mark Levin, executive director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, who spoke with the premier during a reception given here by the premier and Gore.

“We are gratified the American government continued to raise this at the highest level.”

Jewish Agency Chairman Avraham Burg is scheduled to visit Moscow later this week. Burg’s visit, which will include meetings with Russian officials and leaders of Russian Jewish organizations, is seen here as a factor that might hasten registration of the new organization.

Meanwhile, Jewish Agency officials in Russia are busy with their routine summer job — organizing youth camps. Some 19,000 Jewish youths are attending 37 summer camps across the former Soviet Union.

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