By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz
Educational network Or Avner is preparing for budget cuts as its patron, billionaire Lev Leviev, feels the pinch of the global economic crisis.
Or Avner, the world’s largest private Jewish educational network, operates about 100 Jewish schools in Russia and other former Soviet states. The network also runs cultural and educational activities in more than 100 locales in the former Soviet Union, as well as in Israel, Germany and the United States.
But most of its activity is financed directly by Leviev, after whose father the network is named. Thus the network is bracing for budget cuts.
“It is only natural in the current situation, with Leviev’s revenues and holdings shrinking,” an associate said. “Even if he is still a billionaire, he will have to reduce the sums he can set aside for philanthropy.”
Or Avner representatives have been asked to suggest possible cutbacks, and offices with little activity are expected to close.
Or Avner is essentially the executive arm of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS, of which Leviev is president. Most of the network’s rabbis and many of its educators are, like Leviev, members of the Chabad Hasidic sect.
Leviev’s spokesman responded: “Or Avner is not shutting down, either in Russia or in Israel. Nonetheless, in light of the fact that state entities like the Jewish Agency and the Education Ministry, alongside various private donors, have recently completely stopped or drastically reduced their support for joint projects, the managements of the FJC and Or Avner have decided to reexamine the suitability of their activities to the new budgetary reality.
“Lev Leviev considers contributing to the community and social responsibility an important aspect of his identity as a religious man. He has no plans to stop donating and working for continued Jewish education in the Diaspora and Israel, albeit on a smaller scale, as mandated by the likely global economic climate in the coming months.”