What would Tevye think?
Two figures central to matters in the House impeachment inquiry are Jewish — and their favorite place, they said in a video last year, is Anatevka, a real-life place named after the fictional Pale of Settlement shtetl that provides the setting for “Fiddler on the Roof,” the iconic Broadway musical based on the short stories of Sholem Aleichem.
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two Jewish businessmen from the former Soviet Union and close associates of President Trump’s embattled personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani, were arrested last Thursday night as they tried to board a flight to Vienna. The two were indicted for allegedly funneling campaign contributions with the intention, in part, of persuading members of Congress to push for the removal of the United States ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Yovanovitch was recalled from the post in May. (She told House impeachment investigators last week that she was forced out of her position by President Trump, according to Politico.)
The indictment also showed that the two men had introduced Giuliani to several Ukrainian officials as part of a pressure campaign to convince Ukraine to investigate former vice president and current presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, for ties to a Ukrainian energy company. That alleged pressure campaign is central to the House impeachment inquiry that began last month. Parnas and Fruman have also been issued subpoenas by House impeachment investigators.
Fruman and Parnas were honored with the Hovevei Zion (Lovers of Zion) prize at a dinner earlier this year by the National Council of Young Israel, the Orthodox synagogue association that has been criticized this year by some of its own members for its close relationships with Republican figures. Joseph Frager, NCYI’s first vice president, told JTA that he first met Parnas and Fruman at a pro-Trump fundraiser in June 2018. The relationship progressed when the two businessmen joined him for a trip to Israel. Frager later hosted Parnas, Fruman and Giuliani at his home after they visited the grave of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Queens.
Fortunately or unfortunately for NCYI, Frager told JTA that the organization never received a donation from Parnas or Fruman. “I did ask for a donation after the dinner and I didn’t get it,” said Frager.
Fruman and Parnas are also connected to the Brooklyn-based Friends of Anatevka, an American organization affiliated with the Anatevka Jewish Refugee Community, a fledgling real-life community in eastern Ukraine.
AJRC was founded in 2016 by Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, a rabbi from Kiev and an ardent Trump supporter, in order to “build a community, creating affordable homes, jobs and a supportive environment” for Jews who have fled eastern Ukraine due to the conflict between Ukrainians and Russian-backed separatists. The community’s web page says it has raised more than $500,000 toward a goal of $1 million, though it’s unclear if the campaign is ongoing. Rabbi Azman composed a special prayer for Donald Trump that he introduced at his synagogue last year.