Alexander Mashkevich (second from left) meets Israeli chief rabbis Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau and Pope Francis at the seventh Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, in Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan

The Israeli-Kazakh billionaire who builds churches, mosques, and synagogues

Having donated some $62 million to religious causes in recent years, businessman Alexander Mashkevich says he is greatly honored to be able to promote dialog between different faiths

Kobi Nachshoni, Attila Somfalvi |
Published: 09.21.22, 14:54
In recent years, Israeli-Kazakh billionaire Alexander Mashkevich has been donating tens of millions of dollars from his vast wealth toward the construction and renovation of churches, mosques, and synagogues throughout his native Kazakhstan.
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  • When Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev — who hosted the seventh Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in the Central Asian nation's capital Nur Sultan last Wednesday — set himself the goal of leading global interfaith discourse, he did not dream that a day would come where Christians, Muslims, and Jews would build houses of prayer for one another.
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    מפגש הפסגה בין הרבנים הראשיים לאפיפיור פרנציסקוס בקזחסטן
    מפגש הפסגה בין הרבנים הראשיים לאפיפיור פרנציסקוס בקזחסטן
    Alexander Mashkevich (second from left) meets Israeli chief rabbis Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau and Pope Francis at the seventh Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, in Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan
    (Photo: AP)
    Mashkevich, much like his friend President Tokayev, is enthusiastic about religious tolerance and together they solidified Kazakhstan's status as a leading actor in global inter-religious discourse.
    Largely thanks to Mashkevich, close to 20 houses of worship and religious institutions have been built in the country since 2008, including the new main mosque and the Orthodox cathedral in its capital.
    The Jewish businessman also donated to the upkeep of religious shrines, and to the research and preservation of the city of Koltova where ancient Zoroastrian, Jewish and Christian artifacts were found. In total, he donated around $62 million to promote religious coexistence.
    "It's not a matter of money," explained Mashkevich in an interview with Ynet. "God gave me the opportunity to do this, so I say 'let's take advantage of this opportunity to show the world that there is no contradiction'. I always invite many Muslim, Christian, and of course Jewish leaders to Kazakhstan, and try to push them to discuss and take interest in the Quran and the Torah.
    As a Jew, I'm convinced that helping build houses of worship for my Muslim and Christian brothers is holy work. During the course of history, religion caused many conflicts and polarization between people, but in the modern world, the common principles of religious people could unite different nations, and provide a solution to many conflicts."
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    Alexander Mashkevich with George Bush and businessman Michael Mirilashvili
    Alexander Mashkevich with George Bush and businessman Michael Mirilashvili
    Alexander Mashkevich with George Bush and businessman Michael Mirilashvili
    (Photo: Liora Kogan for Keren Hayesod)
    Mashkevich says he considers it a great honor that he was able to be a part of the construction of many religious institutions, and added that "religious tolerance and real coexistence between Muslims, Christians, Jews, and representatives from other religions have always distinguished Kazakhstan from many other countries."
    "Kazakhstan is proof that it doesn't matter what religion a person belongs to, his devotion to the commandments and closeness to God will help him find a common language with the people around him."
    Mashkevich, staying true to his Jewish roots, says that "every Jewish community must have a place to pray, talk, and meet. A place in which Jews will feel that they are at home and can seek help, food, and friends."
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