By COLlive reporter
Russian businessman and philanthropist David Aminov spends most of his time in Moscow overseeing his transportation empire, yet he owns a house in an unlikely vacation spot: Queens, NY.
Aminov’s other residence, considerably smaller and more modest than his Russian home, is located off Francis Lewis Boulevard, a 4-lane road in the middle-class neighborhood of Cambria Heights.
The reason: Its proximity to the Ohel, the Rebbe’s holy gravesite at the Old Montefiore Cemetery.
Aminov’s motto for charity is “invest in people, not things,” yet he says his investment of purchasing the one story house is intended to help people, like himself, to reconnect with their roots.
“My hope is that this house will make it easier for people who come from Russia and need to spend a night or two at the Ohel,” the 46-year-old said in a recent interview with Lubavitch International.
As someone who grew up with no connection to Judaism in his parents’ home in communist Russia, Aminov wants others to have the opportunity to discover their heritage and connect with the Rebbe. “It seems important to me that anyone who would like to visit the Ohel and experience spending time there should have access,” he said.
Aminov has grown observant in his adult life with the guidance of Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar and Rabbi Alexander Boroda, Chairman of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia and is an active member of the Marina Roscha community in Moscow.
The community embarks on an annual trip to the United States before the High Holidays with the central stop being the Rebbe’s Ohel. Aminov says the visits and prayers are a comfort to him. “When you have someone you can go and ask a question and get an immediate answer, it relaxes your attitude,” he told Lubavitch International.
But what moved him most was this: “Seeing people change in front of my eyes had the greatest impact on me. I saw individuals who, after spending some time at the Ohel, decided to have a bris milah, to start wearing tefillin, and to break off with a non-Jewish partner.”
Accommodations near the Ohel are facilitated by Ohel Chabad-Lubavitch Center, directed by Rabbi Abba Refson. Other individually owned houses belong to The Shluchim Office, the family of the late R’ Mendel Shemtov, billionaire Lev Leviev and Brooklyn landlord R’ Dovid Fischer.