Viatcheslav Kantor Steps Down As President Of Russian Jewish Congress

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Viatcheslav Kantor announced his resignation from the post of president of the Russian Jewish Congress (RJC) yesterday at a meeting of the RJC Bureau and Presidium.

Kantor, a Russian activist, businessman and philanthropist, was unanimously elected RJC president in November 2005. Currently he also holds top offices in major international non-governmental organizations and initiatives, such as the European Jewish Congress, the European Jewish Fund, the World Holocaust Forum Foundation, the International Luxembourg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe, and the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation.

Today the RJC is the only secular Jewish organization in Russia supporting an extensive range of programs and initiatives that are the basis for Jewish life in Russia. Over the past three years, the total budget of the RJC’ exceeded USD 13 million.

Members of the Bureau and Presidium voiced warm praise for the Congress’ achievements in the past three years and expressed their regret at Kantor’s decision to resign. Members noted that during his presidency, the RJC gained an unprecedented level of influence in Russian and European social life.

Commenting on the reasons for his resignation, Kantor referred to his desire to focus on the international humanitarian projects and initiatives he believes are crucial at this point: fighting racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, which is currently on the rise in Europe, positively positioning Russia in international relations, strengthening tolerance and reconciliation, addressing regional and global security challenges posed by rogue states, and combating intolerance at the level of national governments and international organizations.

“The lack of progress in intercultural dialogue in Europe is a major concern. In the span of four weeks, several western European countries, including France, Belgium and the UK, have witnessed an alarming number of anti-Semitic incidents – almost half of the total number of incidents monitored in these countries during all of 2008. What we see today – escalating racism, extremism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism – is very reminiscent of events that took place 70 years ago. We must remember the lessons of WWII and the events that preceded it, such as die Kristallnacht. We must remember the horrible price humanity paid for ignoring the threat and for its criminal inaction,” says Kantor.

In light of the RJC’s significant list of current projects and the importance of the president’s duties, Kantor agreed to the Presidium’s request to remain at his post for two months until a strong candidate for the office is nominated.