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Funds for Tel Aviv apartment given to Putin’s former teacher came from Roman Abramovich, records reveal



(JTA) — After Russian President Vladimir Putin reunited with his Jewish high school teacher on an official visit to Israel in 2005, he bought the elderly widow an apartment in Tel Aviv.

That’s according to a widely circulated story based on an interview that the former teacher, Mina Yuditskaya-Berliner, gave to an Israeli news outlet in 2014. At the time, Putin was facing international rebuke over his invasion of Crimea, but Yuditskaya-Berliner had nothing but praise for him.

“When I got the apartment, I cried,” she said. “Putin is a very grateful and decent person.”

Newly uncovered financial records, however, reveal that the funds for the $208,000 apartment came from a bank account in Cypress belonging to Russian Jewish billionaire Roman Abramovich, according to reports published Sunday as part of a collaboration between Israeli investigative outlet Shomrimthe Washington Post and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

A company controlled by Abramovich transferred $245,000 to Yuditskaya-Berliner on the same day she purchased the apartment, documents show.  

The discovery of the transaction is notable because it undermines denials by both Abramovich and Putin that the two are financially linked and is likely to bolster suspicions that Abramovich’s ascent to the top of Russia’s business world indebted him to the country’s ruler.

Abramovich is currently under United Kingdom and European Union sanctions targeting Russian oligarchs, enacted in the wake of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine last February to target his wealth abroad and penalize his associates.

“The Israeli apartment story perfectly encapsulates how unwritten understandings and winks and nods lie at the heart of the Putin-era system,” Andrew Weiss, a Russia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who previously held positions at the White House and State Department, told the Washington Post. “Tycoons like Roman Abramovich don’t need to be strong-armed into taking care of small-time stuff at Putin’s behest. They know precisely what’s expected of them and all too happily play along.”

Records of the transaction are part of a trove obtained by the nonprofit group Distributed Denial of Secrets and shared with journalists at several outlets, including Shomrim’s Uri Blau, Greg Miller with the Washington Post, and Spencer Woodman of ICIJ. 

Asked to respond to questions, a spokesperson for Putin referred reporters to the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia and said the organization would have been responsible for “any charitable work in Israel.”

Through his own spokesperson, Abramovich said he donated the funds for the apartment but not at Putin’s request. The gift was made in response to “a request received from the Jewish community,” the spokesperson said. Abramovich amassed his wealth by buying state assets on the cheap after the fall of the Soviet Union and has used his fortune, estimated at as much as $13 billion, to become a major philanthropist. He says he has donated more than half a billion dollars to Jewish causes, including to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial.

Rabbi Alexander Boroda, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, was quoted in the Jerusalem Post Sunday saying that it was he who had asked Abramovich for a donation for a new apartment after learning that Yuditskaya-Berliner was living in a fourth-floor public housing unit with no elevator and a leaky ceiling. 

Putin was a student in Yuditskaya-Berliner’s German class at High School 281 in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg in the 1960s. She left for Israel in 1973 during a wave of Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union, which Yuditskaya-Berliner said was characterized at the time by “suspicion, terror and fear.” Putin went on to become a KGB officer in East Germany. 

She shared the story of her reunion with Putin and credited him with buying her an apartment in an article published by Ynet in 2014 under the headline, “I was Vladmir Putin’s teacher.”

She said she had lost track of Putin for decades until seeing his face on television next to that of Russian President Boris Yeltsin in the late 1990s. Putin was in charge of Russia’s internal security agency but soon succeeded Yeltsin as president. 

Ahead of an announced state visit by Putin to Israel in 2005, Yuditskaya-Berliner decided she’d like a chance to see Putin in person and reached out to the Russian consulate. She was eventually invited to an event honoring World War II veterans at the King David Hotel and seated across the table from Putin. Afterward, the Russian president invited her to have tea with him in a private room. 

The two reminisced about their shared history and before the meeting ended, Putin had his former teacher write down her address. Gifts started arriving, including a commemorative watch and an autographed copy of Putin’s book. Soon someone showed up and arranged to move her into a new apartment. 

Yuditskaya-Berliner died in 2017 at 96. In her will, she instructed that her apartment be given to the Russian government. 

The post Funds for Tel Aviv apartment given to Putin’s former teacher came from Roman Abramovich, records reveal appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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