November 23, 2014
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you. Thank you so much, everyone. I want to thank my good friend Alexander for all he does with the community here in the United States and all around the world. I want to thank everyone who helped to organize this event, including the World Forum of Russian-Speaking Jewry, the American Council for World Jewry, and its great president, Jack Rosen, who’s also a great friend. I want to thank the entire advisory board – everyone who put time into this. So many people are here to honor those who were chosen tonight for their great contributions to the community. You know it’s an important event if Ido Ahorani here as the Consul General of Israel is here – thank you, Ido, for being here. And some of our great elected officials – Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer; Assemblymember Alec Brook-Krasny, born in Moscow, and a member of New York State Assembly; Councilmember Ben Kallos, whose grandparents are from Russia – people have come out tonight to honor people who have done so much in this country on behalf of the Russian-speaking community and the entire community – and we thank them. And they come from so many different fields of endeavor, but what unites them is they make us proud through their achievement.
New York City is very proud to host these awards – the first ever Russian-Americans of the Year Award. It’s an important moment for the Russian-speaking community and we are proud to host it here in our city.
And we are the home, of course, to the largest Russian-speaking community in the entire nation, which is a great source of pride for New York City. It’s one of the reasons New York City is strong – is we bring together talented, energetic people from all over the globe, and they make us stronger and better. And the Russian-speaking community has played a crucial role in the growth of this city in the last decades – it’s essential to the fabric of our city today.
When you think of New York City today, there’s a strong Russian accent to New York City.
There’s something great that the Russian community has brought us – and not just in Brighton Beach – all over it’s felt – in neighborhoods all over the city and some of the great institutions of our city. The Russian-speaking community has blossomed in recent decades, but it’s been here for a long time – put an imprint on this city for a long time. Remember – some of our most iconic institutions bear the stamp of Russian-speaking leaders. A great example – the New York City Ballet founded by George Balanchine – one of our great institutions in this city, which also has a Russian accent. So, we as a city want to keep encouraging and supporting that wonderful contribution from this community.
By the way, we believe in the power of immigration to make us stronger. It’s a moment in our nation when these issues are being discussed more and more. Here in New York City, we have a great example to everyone of what immigration does to make us stronger, to bring us together – not apart. There’s a beautiful quote by a Russian-American writer, Lara Vapnyar – she moved from Moscow to Brooklyn. She said something I think a lot of people in this room could understand very personally – and it beautifully describes the immigrant experience – she said, “Every person – every person is given one life, and immigration gives you the opportunity to live a second life.” So many people have done that – and we are the better and the stronger for it.
Congratulations to all the honorees tonight, and thank you for all you do for this wonderful city. Thank you so much.