Kira Kazantsev, Miss America 2015, thanked the Russian-Jewish community on Friday for supporting her efforts to become third consecutive Miss America winner from New York, after she had won the title of Miss New York on May 24, 2014 while serving as Miss City of New York.
Kazantsev, the daughter of Russian immigrants, hosted a press briefing Friday at the Gallery Shchukin in midtown to officially open the Inaugural Russian-American Person of the Year Awards and announce the nominees.
The awards, which strive to unify the diverse communities of all Russian-speaking Americans in the United States, are sponsored by the World Forum of Russian Speaking Jewry, with support from the American Council for World Jewry. The winners of the Russian-American Person of the Year Awards in all categories eligible for public nomination and votes will be announced at the awards’ Inaugural Gala on Nov. 23.
Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to speak at the Gala.
“I’m not Jewish, but I’d like to thank the Russian-Jewish community for being so supportive on my journey to becoming Miss America,” Kazantsev said. “There were a lot of Russian-American Jews who came to my homecoming celebration after I won the title of Miss America and I’m grateful for their support and for being there.”
“My best friend is Jewish, and I’ve participated in many of her Jewish and family traditions at her home,” she added.
After announcing the awards, Kazanstev remarked, “This award is a testament to the Russian community, and how important it is that we honor Russian-Americans. My parents lived the quintessential Russian-American dream and they’re the reason I’m where I am today. I’m honored to be part of the Russian-American community.”
Also attending were Russian-American Person of the Year Advisory Board Members and Honorees, including: Vitali Komar; Yuri Foreman; Sergey Gordeev; Mikhail Turovsky; Larissa Saveliev; Aleksandra Gerson; Seva Kaplan; Edward Bekkerman; Jack Rosen; Alexander Levin; and Curtis Sliwa.
Consul General of Israel in New York, Ambassador Ido Aharoni; Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel and Larry King also serve as advisory members of the board.
The advisory Board members has selected the following nominees in the following categories which are eligible for public voting: Educator of the Year – Lenny Krayzelburg, Larissa and Gennadi Saveliev, Rabbi Aryeh Katzin; Emerging Leader of the Year – Michael Belogorodsky, Yuri Foreman, Leonard Petlakh and Alex Rubin; Visual Artist of the Year – Edward Bekkerman, Vitaly Komar, Alexander Melamid and Mikhail Turovsky; Media Award – Aleksandra Gerson, Sergey Gordeev, Seva Kaplan, Gennady Katsov, Katya Kazakina, Ekaterina Kotrikadze and Victor Topaller; Performer of the Year – Philippe Quint, Regina Spektor and Borislav Strulev.