Sergei Weinstein Prizes awarded at Mountain Jews Center
The STMEGI International Charitable Foundation held an award ceremony for the Sergei Weinstein Prize winners at the new Community Center for Mountain Jews in Sokolniki. A scientist, ethnographer and culturologist, native of Baku Sergei Weinstein devoted his life to strengthening Jewish-Azerbaijani relations and played an important role in the revival of Jewish religious life and national culture in modern Russia.
The event was opened by Vice President of STMEGI International Charitable Fund Isai Zakharyaev: "Sergey Ivanovich hasn't been with us for four years, but his work continues. He was closely connected with Azerbaijan. Many people knew him in our community. Today, in honor of his 70th birthday, we decided to award outstanding people who, like him, have made a great contribution to the development of the culture of the Mountain Jews. Each year the number of candidates worthy of becoming laureates of this prize is increasing. This means that there has been increasing interest in our people and in our culture. That is what Sergey Ivanovich dreamed of and aspired to. May he rest in peace."
Humanitarian Counselor of the Azerbaijani Embassy in Russia Zaur Pashayev read out Azerbaijani Ambassador to Russia Polad Bulbuloglu's statement: "Mountain Jews found their second homeland in Azerbaijan, living side by side with their Azerbaijani brothers for many centuries, consider Azerbaijan their homeland. There has been no confrontation on ethnic or religious grounds for the whole history of relations between our peoples, because the relations were always based on respect and mutual understanding, the trust of fraternal relations. I don't suppose there are people here who don’t know about the unique settlement of Mountain Jews in Azerbaijan, the Red Sloboda. Today its population is about 7-8 thousand. In Soviet times, these figures were much higher. Young people grow up, receive a good education, travel around the world, but in the most solemn moments of their life they always return here, to the land of their fathers and grandfathers."
Deputy President of the STMEGI Charitable Foundation David Mardakhaev told Vestnik Kavkaza about the Prize: "The award was founded in the year of the sudden death of Sergei Weinstein, who was the Executive Vice President of the Fund, was one of the originators of the STMEGI Fund, ally of President of the Fund Herman Zakharyaev. Speaking at a memorable evening in 2015, German Zakharyaev announced that he was establishing the Weinstein Prize. We have been awarding people who have contributed to the highland Jewish culture every year since 2015. This year, prizes are awarded 'For contribution to the culture of Mountain Jews', 'For contribution to the study of the Juhuri language'. For what people are doing for our small Mountain-Jewish people. This year Sergey Ivanovich Weinstein would have turned 70 years old. Since he was a native of Baku and was closely connected with Baku, we decided to devote this anniversary year to the friendship of peoples."
This year's prize winners were people who made a significant contribution to the relationship between cultures of the Azerbaijani and Mountain Jewish peoples - director Rufat Asadov, composer Elchin Imanov, poet, musician and performer Yosef ben Yochai.
Director Rufat Asadov said: "20 years ago I shot the documentary 'A Jew from Cuba'. It was screened in the U.S. Congress; It was awarded by the World Jewish Congress. After that, I could not stop. I was very interested in Jewish theme. When I ended up in St. Petersburg, my whole circle, all the teachers and teachers were Jews. I somehow got into this matter, tried to capture everything. Then I made the second film 'The Last Jew in the Village', and my last work is called 'The Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah'. We presented it in Israel, a screening in Germany is scheduled for December, and in February next year - in New York."
Azerbaijani composer Elchin Imanov noted: "I wrote a lot of works in the ancient Juhuri language, I studied its culture. I don’t say that I am fluent in the language, but I know the spoken language. This made it possible for me to set the lines to music dedicated to my motherland. These songs are very popular on social media, they can be heard on state television of Azerbaijan, where this year has been declared by President Ilham Aliyev the Year of Multiculturalism. And it make me feel even better."
Singer and poet Yosef ben Yochai said: "This is a reward for our people. I would like very much our art, our creativity, our musical activity were developed in the future as well."
The event was attended by businessmen and philanthropists, representatives of city and federal authorities, embassies of Israel and Azerbaijan, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, rabbis and leaders of Jewish organizations and communities.