December 21, 2009 / 4 Tevet 5770
The Union of Jewish Communities of Russia conferred upon Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky the title of “Man of the Year” in a Dec. 20, 2009 ceremony in Moscow. The honor was bestowed in 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. Prior recipients of the award include businessman Roman Abramowitz, Russia’s gymnastics team trainer Irina Viner, President of the Holocaust Memorial Fund Ala Gerber, famous Jewish-Russian singer Joseph Kobzon, and others. This year, for the first time, the award was given to a non-Russian citizen.
The Jewish Agency Chairman, who spent nearly a decade in a Soviet prison before being released and settling in Israel, was named “Man of the Year” under the category of “Personality Who Became a Myth.”
“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.
Upon receiving the award, the Chairman said that he has no plans of resting on his laurels. “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.”
During the ceremony, the Chairman announced the reopening of approximately 200 Hebrew language classes in Russia and throughout the FSU, whose activities were brought to a halt in 2009 due to budget constraints. Over 2,600 students will learn Hebrew in the reinstated classes. These students will be joining the approximately 3,000 students studying Hebrew in the classes that are currently being held.