Roman Abramovich in Israel
Roman Abramovich in Israel
Roman Abramovich

Roman Abramovich: A spoiled billionaire or superhero fighting anti-Semitism?

Opinion: The Jewish businessman spends a lot of his time and invests millions into Jewish causes in an effort to stop anti-Semitism, yet when he obtained an Israeli citizenship in 2018, people said he did it to travel Europe without visa; does a good deed ever go unpunished?

Miriam Assor |
Published: 12.25.21, 08:36
He is very discreet. He does not give interviews. He does not pose for photographs. He rarely shows emotion. His children are Lithuanian nationals, from the European Union. Meet billionaire Roman Abramovich - a Lithuanian Jew, a Portuguese Jew, a Russian Jew and as of 2018, an Israeli Jew as well.
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  • The history of Abramovich is the history of the pogroms the Jews suffered everywhere: Poland, Lithuania and even Siberia (the resting place of his grandfather, Nachman Leibovich). His ancestors had suffered discrimination in Minsk, Poznan and Hamburg, and earlier still in the Iberian Peninsula and in other places (like our ancestors two millennia ago in Judah).
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    Roman Abramovich
    Roman Abramovich
    Roman Abramovich
    (Photo: Getty Images)
    The successive marching orders received to move on to neighboring countries (when such countries had agreed to take in Jews), as well as their trade relations and marriages between Jews of different origins, meant that Jewish families from Iberia and those from central and eastern Europe constantly intermarried.
    Roman Abramovich has been recognized by the Forum for Jewish Culture and Religion for his contribution of more than 500 million dollars to Jewish causes in Russia, the United States, Great Britain, Lithuania, Israel, Portugal, and elsewhere in the last twenty years.
    In the Jewish world, one of the greatest beneficiaries of his generosity has long been the international Chabad movement, based in New York, which supervises 4500 rabbis scattered around the world.
    Chabad took its first steps in Poland, in Poznan, on Portugalis street, and was officially founded by Schneur Zalmane, descended from Rabbi Baruch Portugali, of Sephardic origin.
    4 View gallery
    Roman Abramovich in Israel
    Roman Abramovich in Israel
    Roman Abramovich in Israel
    His civil name is known but possibly not his Hebrew name: Nachman ben Aharon. His name refers to that of the great 13th century Sephardic sage, Moises ben Nachman, known as Nachmanides.
    Abramovich is a benefactor member of Jewish communities such as Chabad Portugal (in Cascais it has the largest Chabad Centre in Europe) and B’nai B’rith International Portugal, together with other philanthropists from the United States, Russia, China, and Israel.
    In addition to donations of millions of dollars to the Jewish Agency for Israel and to Jewish communities everywhere, Abramovich participated in symbolic acts such as the plantation of a forest with about 25,000 trees in memory of the Lithuanian Jews who died in the Holocaust, and the rehabilitation of the cemetery of the old Jewish Portuguese community of Altona, today a neighborhood in the city of Hamburg.
    After decades of helping the people of Israel and the State of Israel, in 2018 he obtained Israeli citizenship.
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    A hotel in Tel Aviv owned by Abramovich
    A hotel in Tel Aviv owned by Abramovich
    A hotel in Tel Aviv owned by Abramovich
    (Photo: Dor Nevo)
    In the West it was reported that he did so to continue visiting London without a visa. For three years he was not seen in the city. When he made there it to visit his family in 2021, the news reported he became an Israeli to enter the UK.
    My father, who has been a Lisbon rabbi for fifty years, always taught me that in different eras and contexts, the Jew is not identified by his good sentiments and pure actions, but rather by his money, business and "dodgy" behavior.
    The letter which a Polish relative of Abramovich wrote in 1940 to the Jewish community of Oporto (which was mostly Polish at the time), begging it to inform the family that he had arrived safely in London, has led me to conclude that, yes, he had fled the Nazis, but was hardly free from another kind of anti-Semitism, based on the same myths and insults.
    Described for years in the West as a luxury-loving Russian billionaire, from the moment Abramovich became a citizen of Israel and launched the “Say No To Anti-Semitism” campaign, his Jewish identity has come into the limelight, not to mention every stereotype that has always followed rich Jews.
    According to the last report of the Anti-Defamation League, in June of this year, he is the No.1 target of online anti-Semitism in the world of soccer, having bough Chelsea Football Club that competes in the English Premier League in 2003.
    “Roman Abramovich is Jewish, stop supporting Chelsea,” “The Jews really rule the world," "I was surprised to learn that Roman Abramovich is a Jew" - those are just some of the things you can find written about him on there forums.
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    Chelsea FC players celebrate a win
    Chelsea FC players celebrate a win
    Chelsea FC players celebrate a win
    (Photo: Reuters)
    Due to Abramovich's influence, Chelsea is now working with personalities and authorities the world over to help fight anti-Semitism and hate in general.
    As part of that effort, players, management and fans meet frequently with Holocaust survivors, in a campaign involving partners including the World Jewish Congress, B’nai B’rith International, the Holocaust Education Trust and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
    Although he finances projects the world over, such as one in Israel that annually unites 1000 Jewish and Arab children through soccer, to tear down barriers between youths of different cultures, Abramovich is well aware that many will never ascribe positive intentions or pure feelings to his actions, no matter how hard he tries.
    The Jewish history has proven it time and time again.

    Miriam Assor is a journalist and writer as well as the author of the book “Os Judeus Ilustres de Portugal” (Famous Jews of Portugal)
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