President of Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS
Israeli entrepreneur and philanthropist, Lev Leviev was born in the then Soviet city of Tashkent, Uzbekistan in 1956. His father, Rabbi Avner and his mother Chana Leviev were prominent members of the Bukharian Jewish community. At the age of fifteen in 1971 his family emigrated to Israel. Shortly after, Lev began to work as an apprentice in a diamond polishing plant, and following his military service, he established his own diamond polishing plant.
With the fall of Communism in the early 1990s, Lev Leviev looked to expand his business endeavors into Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union. After consultation with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson of righteous memory, he received both the Rebbe's blessing for success and a request that he should continue the path of generosity of his parents and grandparents and rebuild Jewish life in the Former Soviet republics.
With the guidance and direction of Rabbi Berel Lazar, the Chief Rabbi of Russia and leading Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries and Rabbis in the FSU, Lev Leviev formed a partnership supporting their activities by establishing the Ohr Avner Foundation in his father's memory in 1992.
It has since established over seventy educational institutions in the Former Soviet Union including Jewish day schools, universities, kindergartens and camps. This Foundation is the largest benefactor of Jewish life in the Former Soviet Union while also supporting numerous schools for Russian immigrants in Israel, the United States and Europe.
Lev Leviev serves as the President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS (FJC), the central organization that represents the fifteen organized Jewish communities of all the independent republics that once made up the Soviet Union. These organizations encompass 426 Jewish communities, all of which are helped by the FJC. Under the leadership of Lev Leviev, the FJC has become the premier organization in the Former Soviet Union for the restoration of Jewish life, culture and Jewish education.
Lev Leviev heads a large group of global companies that cover the fields of international trade, diamonds, real estate, infrastructure development, metals, chemicals, high-tech development, and hotels with the Leviev Group's annual turnover reaching $1.8 billion.
Lev Leviev is the largest private diamond manufacturer in the world with diamond polishing plants in Russia, India, China, South Africa, Ukraine, and Armenia, as well as eight marketing agencies globally.
In 1996, Lev Leviev acquired control over Africa-Israel Investments, one of Israel's largest companies, with holdings and assets valued above $1 billion. Mr. Leviev serves as Chairman of the Israel-Russia and CIS Chamber of Commerce and Industry. It is the leading facilitator for Israeli and Russian business expansion and development through partnerships in Israel and the Former Soviet Union countries.
In addition to a well-established reputation for his business accomplishments, Mr. Leviev serves as Honorary Consul for the Republic of Kazakhstan in Israel and maintains good relations with heads of state in the FSU countries and is recognized worldwide for his philanthropic efforts.
Mr. Leviev also serves as the President of the Bukharan Jewish Congress, which unites close to 250,000 members worldwide and helps to address the religious and cultural needs of the Bukharan communities.
Mr. Leviev and his wife Olga live in Israel with their nine children and numerous grandchildren.
Rohr Family Foundation
The Rohr Family Foundation, led by Mr. Sami Rohr of Miami and his son, Mr. George Rohr of New York, is among the leading builders of Jewish life and communities in the former Soviet Union.
Mr. Sami Rohr was a leading real estate developer in Bogota, Colombia for over 30 years. Mr. George Rohr is general partner of New Century Holdings, presently the largest Western financial investor in the former Soviet Union.
Through his business involvement in the region, Mr. Rohr had the opportunity to see the struggle Jews were waging to re-establish Jewish communal life after decades of oppression, and felt that he and his family had a responsibility to try to help rebuild Jewish life in the region.
In the early 1990's, the Rohrs (whose generosity towards Jewish communal causes worldwide includes support for educational efforts in the U.S. - including an initiative to establish Chabad Houses on college campuses nationwide - South America, eastern and western Europe, and Asia), began supporting Lubavitch rabbis and their families who have settled in and are working in over 100 cites throughout the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe.
Today, the Rohr Family Foundation is one of the two largest benefactors of Jewish life in the FSU, having provided funding for the construction and renovation of synagogues, Jewish community centers and mikvaot in over thirty cites.
These projects include the restoration of the Grand Choral Synagogue in Kharkov, Ukraine; the newly restored Golden Rose Synagogue in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine; and the main synagogue and community hall in the seven-story Jewish Community Center in Moscow, named in memory of Yehoshua Eliyahu and Perl Rohr.
Currently more than fifteen synagogues and community centers and mikvaot are under construction thanks to the support of the Rohr Family Foundation.
The Rohr Family Foundation provides salaries and living expenses for nearly 200 Lubavitch rabbis and their families in the former Soviet Union, thus relieving emerging local Jewish communities of a major financial burden.
Backed by a major grant from the Rohr Family Foundation, the FJC Russian-language publishing house has printed 100,000 siddurim; 75,000 Haggadot; 100,000 High Holiday prayerbooks; 25,000 copies of the Soncino Chumash (Five Books of Moses); and 25,000 books of Psalms, all with Russian translation.
The FJC also has commissioned the Gesharim Publishing House to publish the first-ever edition of Neviim and Ketuvim (Prophets and Writings) with modern Russian translation, to be known as the Rohr Nach.
The Rohr family has also provided major founding grants for the establishment of the largest Jewish website in the Russian language, www.jewish.ru; for the operating expenses of Magen League, the only counter-missionary organization in the FSU; the Machon Chaya Mushka Institue in Moscow-Jewish University for Women; grants to five of the children's homes and orphanages; and numerous yeshivot under the FJC umbrella.
The Foundation also provides capital support to Jewish schools in Riga and Vilnius, and is a major sponsor of the Gan Israel summer camp network in the FSU.
It is a major partner in funding the mass holiday campaigns throughout the region, sponsoring 500 public sedarim and sending 350 rabbinical students across the FSU for High Holiday and Passover visits to smaller communities.
The scope and accomplishments of the Rohr family's partnership with the FJC is breathtaking, and their generosity is helping secure the continuity of Jewish life in the FSU for generations to come.