On the first leg of a visit to Central Asia this week, a Euro-Asian Jewish Congress – World Jewish Congress Delegation headed by Mikhail Mirilashvili, EAJC President, met today with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev. The delegation was also co-led by Robert Singer, WJC CEO & Executive Vice President and Aaron G. Frenkel, Chair of EAJC Governing Board.
Greeting the delegation, President Aliyev spoke of how the Jewish and Azeri people have had warm and close relations throughout history, recalling how many Jews found shelter in Azerbaijan during World War II. Today there are three Jewish communities living in harmony and with close relations in Azerbaijan: the Ashkenazi, Georgian and Bukharan Jewish communities, and the President noted his pleasure at the warm relations the government has with these communities. The meeting also included Ali Hasanov, Assistant to the President for Public and Politicial Issues, Head of Department, Temur Khikhinashvili, EAJC First Vice President, and Dr. Haim Ben Yakov, EAJC CEO.
EAJC President Mirilashvili spoke of the positive bilateral relations with Israel and thanked President Aliyev for this. The issue of opening an embassy in Israel was raised and the President responded that the issue was currently under discussion. Mr. Mirilashvili emphasized that Israelis and Jews from the diaspora are looking forward to bringing new initiatives and technologies to Azerbaijan, including in the fields of agriculture and medicine. Mr. Singer suggested the option of opening a representative office in Israel in the fields of culture, science and tourism, which the President found as a very good proposal and said he would positively consider this option.
Russian Chief Rabbi and Chair of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS Berel Lazar spoke of the flourishing Jewish life in Azerbaijan, with a thriving Jewish school and a new Mikve (ritual bath) being under construction. Coincidentally while the delegation was in Baku, the first ever Kosher restaurant in Azerbaijan was opened, which symbolizes the strong connection of Judaism with the Azeri people.
EAJC and WJC representatives both expressed their willingness to assist with all issues related the Jewish communities in Azerbaijan.
Other members of the delegation included Rabbi Shneor Segal, Alexander Sharovsky, Chair of the Jewish Community, Eugeny Brenneysen, Vice-Chair of the Jewish Community, Meny Bushuev, EAJC Treasurer and Itai Hacham, Political Officer to WJC CEO.