For the Jewish Advocate of Boston
By Amihai Zippor
The Russian Jewish Community Foundation (RJCF), a newly formed non-profit organization founded by Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, held its first major event on Sunday 06 November.
Close to 400 of Boston’s most successful Russian Jews, local politicians and other special guests filled the Hyatt Regency Ball room in an effort to raise money for diverse Russian Jewish needs and programs that serve the greater Jewish community and support Israel.
The event is said to have raised an estimated 40 to 50 thousand dollars.
“This is one of those mitzvahs that I’ve always been dreaming about,” said Ary Rotman, President of RJCF.
“Those of us who came from the ex-Soviet Union are not accustomed to give money to charities. One of the goals of this foundation is to educate our brothers to be more charitable and that’s where it starts, with a charity ball,” Rotman said.
Although the ball was the first of its kind, it was the seventh year an event was held for the Russian Jewish community. In previous years the event was held under the Jewish Family and Children’s Service and only raised money for programs under that umbrella organization. Russian Jews decided they wanted to open up the charitable contributions to the wider needs of their community and created the RJCF to meet that goal.
“We came [to America] without anything and people helped us and now we want to teach each other how to give back,” declared Dr. Mila Magitsky, one of the organizers of the event, adding that the Russian Jewish community’s help can come from within.
Greg Margolin, also a member of the committee echoed her sentiment and has high hopes for Russian Jewish community’s potential now that they have their own outlet.
“We have 70,000 Russian Jews in Massachusetts so suddenly you have this community which is coming together and it’s enormous and we are dealing with something of truly historical proportions,” Margolin said.
Politically, the Russians are a formidable block of voters and politicians from the Boston area turned out to honor the achievements of these Jews and their contributions to the welfare of the city of Boston.
Keynote speaker Lt. Governor Kerry Healey presented a special award to Russian immigrant Leonid Raiz, who quickly became one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Massachusetts after arriving here 25 years ago. His company Parametric Technology, which revolutionized Mechanical Computer Aided Design, gained considerable market success and employed thousands.
“The Russian immigrant community has been some of [Boston’s] strongest entrepreneurs and educators and I’m here to honor them and thank them for their contribution,” said Healey enthusiastically.
“What they’ve been able to accomplish is very inspirational to all of us,” she added.
Commenting on his award, Raiz said very humbly: “It’s unexpected, very pleasant and a big honor.”
All the other guests expressed their pride and joy over seeing a room full of successful Russian Jews coming together to give back to their community. One man who sponsored four tables said he was so overwhelmed that the ball was a Jewish/Russian event that for the first time in his life he gave charity with an open heart.
Rabbi Dan Rotkin, executive director of the Shaloah House and also from the former Soviet Union tried to explain the sudden desire to give in such a setting.
“Under communism,” the rabbi said, “all Jewish tradition was removed from the life of the Jew and the concept of giving charity did not exist.”
“When we come together in such numbers our community is saying you cannot remove the Jewishness from the heart of a Jew. These Russian Jews came to contribute their wealth to the needs of the Jewish community and it shows that communism did not succeed and that Judaism and its foundations live on.”