Jewish Communities in Russia Mourn Loss of Plane Crash Victims

by B. Olidort - MOSCOW, RUSSIA

August 26, 2004

As Russia observes an official day of mourning for the 89 people who died in the dual airplane crash earlier this week, leaders of the Moscow and S. Petersburg Jewish communities are mourning several passengers who had close ties to their respective communities.

David Cohen, a resident of St. Petersburg and an active member in the city’s synagogue was on the plane together with his friend and business partner, Tangis (Eli) Yakobashvilli. The two were headed to Volgograd, in southern Russia, when the plain went down.

According to Chabad’s Rabbi Mendel Pewzner, Chief Rabbi of S. Petersburg, Cohen, in his early 50s, was intimately involved in S. Petersburg’s Jewish community life. “He was a mainstay of the local Georgian Jewish community and the local synagogue. This is a very hard shock for us to absorb.”

Tangis Yakobashvilli, 43, and a father of four, was “very active and a key supporter in the construction of the new shul here,” said Rabbi Yitzchok Kogan, Rabbi of Chabad’s Bronnoya Bolshoi synagogue in Moscow. “This has been a terrible day for us,” he said yesterday.

Both Cohen and Yakobashvilli were of Georgian descent, and both reportedly held Israeli citizenship.

Russian authorities are still investigating possible causes that had the two planes—which had both departed Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport on Tuesday—crash within minutes of each other. One of the planes went down near Rostov-on-Don, and the other was found about 100 miles south of Moscow, near Tula.

In a last minute change of plans on Tuesday, Rabbi Zalman Yoffe, a Chabad representative in Volgograd, did not get on the ill-fated plane. But he took the same flight the following night so that he could be with the grieving families. Yoffe knew Cohen personally. “The loss of so many lives is a terribly tragedy for us all,” he said.

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