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Billionaire Roman Abramovich makes ‘8-figure donation’ to Yad Vashem

Money to fund International Institute for Holocaust Research and build it a new home; Russian-Israeli oligarch says ability to donate to Holocaust research is a ‘privilege’

In this photo, released by the Israel’s Government Press Office, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich (left) talks with Israeli President Isaac Herzog at Stamford Bridge, in London, November 21, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/Israel’s Government Press Office via AP)
In this photo, released by the Israel’s Government Press Office, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich (left) talks with Israeli President Isaac Herzog at Stamford Bridge, in London, November 21, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/Israel’s Government Press Office via AP)

Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich made a multi-million shekel donation to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum, the museum announced Tuesday, calling it “a new long-term strategic partnership.”

“We are deeply grateful to Roman Abramovich for this generous contribution that will significantly strengthen Yad Vashem’s mission,” said Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan.

“This partnership highlights his continued dedication to Holocaust remembrance and combating antisemitism and buttresses Yad Vashem’s determination to remain the gatekeeper of accurate, fact-based memory of the Shoah,” Dayan said.

Museum spokesman Simmy Allen did not give the exact sum, but said that it is “an eight-figure donation,” putting it in the tens of millions of shekels.

“With this contribution, Roman Abramovich will become the second-largest private donor to Yad Vashem, after Miri and Sheldon Adelson,” he said.

The museum said the donation will go toward helping to fund Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research for a period of five years.

Head of Yad Vashem Dani Dayan. (Alex Kolomoisky/Yad Vashem)

It said an additional donation was made by Abramovich to fund a new building for the research center.

Abramovich is also funding the creation of two new versions of Yad Vashem’s Book of Names, in which the museum had detailed the collected the names of more than 4,800,000 Jewish men, women and children who were murdered by the Nazis.

“One of the new Books will be permanently featured at Yad Vashem, while the second will serve as a mobile commemorative display, raising global awareness of the murder of some six million Jews during the Shoah,” the statement said.

“Yad Vashem’s work in preserving the memory of the victims of the Holocaust is instrumental to ensure that future generations never forget what antisemitism, racism and hate can lead to if we don’t speak out,” said Abramovich, calling the donation “my privilege.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pauses after laying a wreath at the Hall of Remembrance, as Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, second right, looks on during a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, October 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Abramovich, best known internationally as the owner of the Chelsea soccer team, has been a sometimes controversial figure.

In 2018 the oligarch immigrated to Israel, instantly becoming one of the country’s richest people, with an estimated wealth of some $14 billion. The move came after he was unable to extend his visa in the UK amid a diplomatic spat between London and Moscow.

There is no evidence that Abramovich has done anything wrong, but the UK has scrutinized Russian businesspeople and diplomats more carefully in recent years.

Most recently he raised eyebrows in Portugal when he claimed citizenship there under a 2015 law that repatriates descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled during the Inquisition.

A Portuguese passport allows Abramovich to live and work anywhere in the European Union. It will also potentially make it easier for him to do business in the UK.

Abramovich is said to have donated more than $500 million in recent years to Israeli and Jewish causes, including some $100 million to fund the right-wing, pro-settlement Elad organization, which runs archaeological digs and sites in East Jerusalem and controversially buys properties in Palestinian areas to increase the Jewish presence there.

He has also led several programs to combat racism and antisemitism through the Chelsea club.

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