Monday, 29 April 2013
ALEX FAIMAN - A PROFILE
In a continuation of our series "Meet the Executive", the Alex Faiman story is exciting and unusual. "I want to help disadvantaged people, I want to be involved in humanitarian work" he replies when asked to explain what his main objectives are within B'nai B'rith. Suitably dressed during his visit to Ukraine in February this year
Alex was born in Shanghai in 1933. When he was just 2 years old his parents moved to Harbin in NE China where there was a sizeable Russian Jewish community. He went to a Russian high school and grew up during his formative years with Russian as his language. "It is still my first language" he says, "the language in which I do any calculation work".
How he came to be in China is itself a fascinating story. His father, Julius, was born in Astrakhan at the delta of the River Volga where it flows into the Caspian Sea. Julius was the youngest of four sons of a merchant of the 1st Guild whose business was dealing in caviar, and because he was of the 1st Guild he was permitted to live outside the Pale of Settlement. The Revolution of 1917, however, brought persecution of bourgeois capitalists, so that the family decided that Julius, the youngest and unmarried son, should leave. This had to be done illegally. European borders were closed, so Julius travelled east to Vladivostok and from there to Harbin in NE China. There he soon met Lucienne, also of Russian speaking background and they married.
How did Lucienne come to be living in Harbin? Her father came from Vilnius in Lithuania, was clearly a bright young man, married and then, with his wife, went to university in Berlin where he qualified as a doctor in industrial chemistry. He then, in 1905, took a job as an industrial chemist in a factory in Harbin where Alex's mother Lucienne was born.
During the war years Alex and his family lived under Japanese occupation. In 1945 they were liberated by the Soviet army who were very soon succeeded by the Chinese Communist army. So the Faiman family moved to Sidney, Australia in 1951 when Alex was 18 years old. He spent more than 30 years in Australia and spent most of that time in the publishing trade. He met his wife Audrey during a visit to England in 1972, they married and she joined him in Sidney. "That was my first contact with B'nai B'rith. Audrey and I joined a lodge in Sidney" he recalls.
After the death of his parents Alex and Audrey decided to move to London in 1985, where they continued their activities in B'nai B'rith. He became Vice President of First Lodge in 1986, and was extremely active on a committee concerned with Russian refugees. He has been President of Leo Baeck Lodge for a couple of years. In addition to his work within BB Alex is a member of the International Division of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the special representative of the chairman of the International Division to the European Jewish Congress.
His background gives him an excellent understanding of the mentality of people in East Europe and in Russia. He has been a member of the Executive Committee of B'nai B'rith Europe since 1999, since the merger of District 15 and District 19, always involved with humanitarian activities in those areas. "This is my strength" he says. "This is what I can do well".
To prove the point, he then went on to describe his recent 10 day visit to Lvov and Kiev, a journey on behalf of B'nai B'rith Europe, totally devoted to the organisation of emergency humanitarian aid in those areas. The objective of the visit was to reinstate the aid programmes in Lvov and the provincial cities of W. Ukraine, to reinforce relationships with government authorities in Kiev and to ensure the smooth running of both operations. Alex went into some detail about the nature of these operations in which B'nai B'rith is very closely involved:
- A medical centre, devoted to "clients" of B'nai B'rith, with ECG equipment, a cardiologist, a medical practitioner and a pharmacy
- A dental laboratory producing dentures
- The repair of shoes
- A hygienic programme - laundry services for the elderly
- Feeding elderly people, 10% of whom are righteous gentiles
- Financial help for the supply of food and medication in the provinces
- Supporting a kindergarten in Lvov with 24 children aged 4 - 5, paying a share of the salaries of two teachers, and covering the cost of food and maintenance of the building.
- In Kiev, providing food and medication for some 112 elderly survivors as well as a weekly surgery.
Alex is seen here with Grigoryi Pikman, President of the Leopolis Lodge of Lvov, and Luda Katz who is the Deputy Director of Catering for the various University colleges as well as being a member of the Lodge in Lvov. Our elderly clients are able to use the university dining facilities.The most enjoyable part of his visit - playing with the children in the sponsored kindergarten