IF NOT ME FOR MYSELF, WHO THEN?
I would like to introduce Yevgeny Satanovsky - a new President of the Russian Jewish Congress. The "former" one - Leonid Nevzlin - had been in the office less than a year. He was recently appointed the Republic of Mordova Representative to the Council of Federation of the Russian Federation and, consequently, retired.
Yevgeniy Yanovich, the President of the "Ariel" financial industrial group, is 42. He is a Muscovite. The only kind of sport he seriously indulged in was karate-do. In his childhood he was badly treated for his nationality. This fact, as Satanovsky believes, has little to do with the country of residence: in Israel he would have been treated in the same way for being a "Russian". I'm a "self-made man" thanks to my family upbringing. "We have such family tradition: "to plough" and to rise from the bottom. Generation by generation - says Yevgeny. - One of my grand grandfathers was a smith. Another was one of the richest persons in Ukraine... He had houses, wine cellars, he fed beggars, supported the Bolsheviks... and died from hunger during the evacuation. The father of my father was a "white collar", joined the war as a soldier and died from injuries. Another grand-father was a navy, the famous constructor of seaports and navy bases. He failed to become an admiral (because of the "doctors' case"), but he had a very rare "iconostasis" of orders - he received the Lenin order yet before the war for the Stalingrad arsenal. My father went in for metallurgy, and me with my brother followed him. He was a born engineer, possessed more than 40 patents and licenses from around the world - from Japan to the USA. But he had never been abroad himself". The early death of the father of the future businessman and scientist made him discard the engineer's diploma and become... a steel founder. "The work was hellish, my personal record of the hand sorting was 280 tons of hot metal a shift, plus the shipment of some 500 tons... The mortality rate was very high, but what an impetus the work gave!" - recalls the candidate of technical sciences. Having saved about a thousand dollars by the end of perestroika, Satanovsky, together with his colleagues- engineers, founded the "Ariel" company with its pretty big annual turnover nowadays. Though his child's passion - history, ethnography and politology - remained with him. His probation work with professor Spairo in London in 1990 revived that passion. On returning to Moscow Satanovsky established the Institute for Israel and Middle East Studies ( IIMES). Its staff included the professionals - enthusiasts from the IMEMO and Institute for Oriental Studies.
The first book prepared by the Institute was published in 1985. Nowadays the IIMES has almost three hundred authors, nearly fifty of them are foreigners. The Institute has issued several hundred articles, over seventy books... Given such achievements of the Institute its President himself was to maintain his reputation. In 1999 he defended the thesis at the Institute for Oriental Studies of the RAS. His books "Israel's economy in 90s" and "Israel in the world policy: strategic opponents and partners" are recognized in the scientific world. The new RJC President became the head of the chair for the Israel studies of the ICAA attached to the MSU, entered the editorial boards of the academic journals "Oriental collection", "Diasporas" and... became the member of the Russian society of friendship with Arab countries. This is not astonishing. The Institute's attention isn't "confined to" Israel only; it is developing a huge layer of regional problems from Northern Africa to Saudi Arabia. What is ahead of the Jewish community in Russia together with Satanovsky as the RJC President? "I am, probably, a born social worker, a kind of torpedo of social activity, - remarks the President himself- I appeared to be the first Jew in the headquarters of the student law enforcement detachments for some twenty five years". Nevertheless, there will be no "coup". Sutanovsky speaks about the succession of the RJC course, namely about the non-interference into political life, about the construction of schools, universities, religious establishments, charitable canteens etc. He also mentions lobbying the Russian interests in the world, establishing closer ties with Israel.
The fact of Nevzlin's election the senator from a Russian province testifies to the RJC influence in the country. "This is our motherland, we all are in the same boat: we shall either swim or sink, - stresses Satanovsky. - We are much eager to swim together to a civilized future where we all shall be able to be proud of our country".
The new President's motto is very simple and wise, irrespective of its triteness, "If not me for myself, who then? If I am only for myself, then why am I? If not now, then when?" - a famous Gilel's saying. The modern context demands explanation. If the Jews themselves are not interested in the construction of their community, then who should do anything for them? If this community is only for them, then what is it for? If today we, until alive, don't do everything we can, it will be too late afterwards.
There is another important moment - relations with the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, the RJC chief competitor.
The FJCR Chief Rabbi Berl Lasar did not even attend the meeting of the Congress Presidium despite the invitation sent to him. Nevertheless, he noted that he "hopes for the cooperation and overcoming all disagreements". The question arises - if not now, then when? The talk is not about a local conflict, but about the fate of the biggest Jewish community in Europe.