The Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova (JCM), represented by Alexander Bilinkis (President), Aliona Grossu (Director) and Alexander Kleinerman (Administrative Director), hosted a high level delegation from the World Jewish Congress (WJC), consisting of Maya Cimeša Samokovlija (Executive Director of Community Relations, World Jewish Congress), Viktorija Juse (Director of Central and Eastern Europe Community Relations and Director of the Yiddish Center in Vilnius, World Jewish Congress) and Ernest Herzog (Executive Director of Operations, World Jewish Congress), and members of its flagship program, the World Jewish Congress Jewish Diplomatic Corps (JD Corps) on 5-7 December.
The delegation had a series of meetings with the national authorities of Moldova, diplomatic missions and international organizations, as well as members of the Jewish Community of Moldova. The focus of these meetings was to find out how the World Jewish Congress can best support Moldova and its Jewish community across a range of areas: sustainable development of the country, human rights promotion and help for displaced persons, campaigning against antisemitism, preservation of Jewish heritage and Holocaust memory in the Republic of Moldova.
Monday’s schedule involved meetings with the EU Mission in the Republic of Moldova, Council for Preventing and Eliminating Discrimination and Ensuring Equality, the Agency for Interethnic Relations, the US Embassy, and the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Moldova for the high level delegation. While representatives from WJC and JCM joined groups of the JD Corps on a fact-finding meeting with Mr. Vitalie Rusu (the Ambassador at Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration), NATIV, the Jewish Agency and on visits to the German, Hungarian and Dutch embassies.
Meeting with Mr. Rusu provided the JD Corps with an opportunity to discuss the ambassador’s recent experiences representing Moldova at the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) Conference in Stockholm and the International Terezin Declaration Conference held in Prague last month. On the back of the ambassador’s reflections, the JD Corps pushed one of the central concerns of the Jewish Community of Moldova - the appointment of an envoy with the specific responsibility of tackling antisemitism and supporting Jewish cultural heritage issues in Moldova.
Another topic which received a lot of discussion across all meetings was plans to commemorate 120 years of the Kishinev Pogrom next April. The WJC, Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova and JD Corps delegation were heartened by the support these plans received by all diplomatic missions, with some embassies offering to invite their envoys, representatives of Jewish communities in their country, or professionals working in the fields of Jewish heritage or Holocaust memory to any event.
Tuesday began by visiting UNHCR’s office in Chisinau. During the Senior Operations Officer at UNHCR Moldova Mr. Bertrand Blanc’s presentation, the delegation heard about the humanitarian crisis taking place in neighboring Ukraine and the issues affecting displaced persons from the conflict residing in Moldova. The meeting concluded with the director of the JCM, Aliona Grossu, informing Mr. Blanc about the Humanitarian Aid Center of the Jewish Community of Moldova and its work to support Jewish displaced persons with the support of WJC. The meeting participants agreed to develop their cooperation for the benefit of supporting those coming from Ukraine and sharing practices to ensure displaced persons receive the best possible care at their time of need.
With this experience, the delegation were able to raise issues of commemoration and memory with renewed vigor to the embassies of Romania, France and Israel on Tuesday afternoon. The Romanian diplomatic mission, in particular, is a key interlocker for the Jewish Community of Moldova due to their shared history and cultural links in the country. In the meeting, Alexander Bilinkis and Aliona Grossu discussed a fact-finding trip to Romanian Jewish communities in January next year.
The evening ended with a warm reception by Jewish communities in Moldova and the annual ceremony of the Seven Candles Awards. Taking place in Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova’s concert hall, the awards ceremony is a much loved tradition which recognizes the activities of people who are dedicated to the life of the Jewish community in Moldova.
Seven Candles prize winners for this year included Maram Stern, executive vice president of the World Jewish Congress; Joel Lion, ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the State of Israel to Moldova; Vitalie Rusu; Natalia Davidovici, member of Moldovan parliament and vice president of the parliamentary commission on interethnic relations and human rights and Alla Bolboceanu, director of the Joint American Jewish Distribution Committee (JOINT) in Moldova and director of the USJDC.
Wednesday marked the final day of the WJC and JD Corps visit to Moldova. For the Jewish Community of Moldova this was a particularly important day as the President and Director of Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova, alongside the high level delegation, were able to meet with the Prime Minister of Moldova, Natalia Gavrilita. This was the first time that the community had been granted an audience with the head of government and it was an invaluable opportunity to raise key issues for Jewish people in the country.
By meeting with the Prime Minister, the community, with WJC reinforcement, were able to underline how they want to be seen as an equal partner in the country’s development. They emphasized how they want to be consulted on all relevant topics and issues to Jewish communities, ranging from the national museum of Jewish history project, delegations sent to relevant conferences and bodies such as the Terezin Conference or IHRA meetings, to policy regarding national minorities in the fields of equality frameworks, education, and cultural preservation.
Meanwhile, the JD Corps and other members of the WJC and JCM delegation enjoyed two productive meetings with the Polish and Italian missions to Moldova. In these meetings, the JD Corps were able to secure the diplomatic missions’ support for the Kishinev Pogrom remembrance program and discuss areas where the international community can support the rights and continuing revival of Jewish life in Moldova.