December 23, 2009 / 6 Tevet 5770
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky was named “Man of the Year” by the Union of Jewish Communities of Russia in ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow at Sunday (Dec. 20). Sharansky received the award at the ceremonial hall of the Kremlin in the presence of Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, Russian Jewish community leaders, and public figures.
Since 2002, the Union of Jewish Communities of Russia has conferred the title of “Man of the Year” upon Russian citizens who have made significant contributions to Russian culture and society. This year, for the first time, the award was given to a non-Russian citizen.
“At a time when others chose to ignore and keep quiet, Natan Sharansky fought uncompromisingly for human rights. He proved that even under the most difficult conditions, a person must remain loyal to his conscience and fight to uphold his principles,” said Rabbi Lazar. Sharansky, who spent nearly a decade in a Soviet prison before being released and moving to Israel, was named “Man of the Year” under the category of “Personality Who Became a Myth.”
During the ceremony, Sharansky announced the reopening of approximately 200 Hebrew language classes which will serve 2,600 students in Russia and the FSU, which had closed in 2009 due to budget constraints. These students will be joining the approximately 3,000 students studying Hebrew in classes currently being held.
“I will continue working with determination to strengthen Jewish awareness in the Former Soviet Union, and among the Jewish people throughout the world,” said Sharansky. “I plan to use this distinguished award to broaden and expand the work of the Jewish Agency in the Former Soviet Union (FSU), and to strengthen the bond between the Jews of the FSU and the State of Israel.”