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Yad Vashem, chief rabbi urge US not to sanction Roman Abramovich

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)

The chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum, a chief rabbi, and representatives of several other major Israeli organizations and charities have written to the US ambassador urging the US not to impose sanctions on Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich, Channel 12 reports.

The signatories, including Yad Vashem’s Dani Danon, Chief Rabbi David Lau, and Sheba Medical Center director-general Prof. Yitshak Kreiss, said such a measure would be both unfair and would negatively impact Israel and the Jewish world. They hailed Abramovich’s investments, philanthropy, and significant contributions to Israel.

The letter was sent to US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides and is dated February 6, days after reports emerged that the US and others were preparing a list of targets for economic sanction should Russia invade Ukraine.

The US declined to comment on the letter.

Imposed since Russia began its assault on Ukraine on Thursday, US-led sanctions have excluded most of the top names from Forbes’ list of the richest Russians, like Abramovich, whose multi-billion-dollar fortunes are now largely intertwined with the West.

On Tuesday, Yad Vashem’s Dayan announced that Abramovich had made a multi-million shekel donation “that will significantly strengthen Yad Vashem’s mission.”

Yad Vashem’s spokesman did not give the exact sum, but said that it is “an eight-figure donation.”

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

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 names of more than 4,800,000 Jewish men, women, and children who were murdered by the Nazis.

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.

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.

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