RAF’s Mission

The Russian American Foundation was founded in 1997 to encourage interest in and understanding of Russian heritage among all communities in the US, as well as to promote reciprocal interest in and understanding of American heritage among global Russian-speaking communities.

Over the years, RAF’s mission has expanded to incorporate national programs aimed at:

  • Promoting economic and social development, progress, and well-being within the Russian-speaking community of the New York area and the greater United States
  • Promoting a better understanding and acceptance of the Russian-speaking community among the various other communities of New York and the greater United States
  • Assisting the Russian-speaking community of New York and the greater United States in preserving its heritage, culture, and language

For additional information about our programs, please e-mail us at info@russianamericanfoundation.org.
Please note that due to a high volume of e-mails, we are taking time to respond to messages in the order in which they are received. Thank you for your patience.


Marina Kovalyov is highly regarded in Russian-speaking communities worldwide as both a business and a cultural leader. After years of serving as Senior Curator at the St. Petersburg Museum of Ethnography in Russia, Marina immigrated to the United States in 1979 and soon thereafter accepted a position with the Costumes and Textiles department at the Brooklyn Museum of New York. Further, Marina decided to pursue entrepreneurism and founded a travel company that specialized in serving the Russian-speaking community. The company quickly expanded and became the leading agency for the Russian-speaking community with offices in New York, Moscow, and Tel-Aviv. In the 1990s, Marina saw an opportunity to bring Russian artists and entertainers to the United States, which launched her successful career as a producer. Marina has also hosted a highly popular program on Russian television and was a co-creator and a co-editor of the magazine New York Seasons, the first Russian-language magazine about cultural life in New York.

After selling her business in 1997, Marina founded the Russian American Arts Foundation with the goal of building a bridge between Russia and the United States through culture and people. Marina’s expertise and global connections are in constant demand and she serves as a consultant for many American and Russian corporations, as well as private individuals. With her active lifestyle, Marina still finds time for charitable causes and is a member of the boards of numerous community organizations such as Shorefront YM-YWHA, COJECO, The Brownstone Experience Foundation, and the Jewish Week.

Marina has been awarded numerous Honors and Awards for her contributions, including:

2017 – Award for “Outstanding Commitment To The Jewish Community”, COJECO
2010 – Award for “Outstanding Contributions To The Jewish Community”, Queens Jewish Community Council, Inc.
2008 – Award for “Contributions to the Successful Development of Cultural Life of New York”, The Office of the Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes
2007 – Honored by William C. Thompson, Jr. for her Outstanding contributions to the Cultural Life of New York City
2006 – Honored by The Council of the City of New York for her Outstanding contributions to the Cultural Life of the City
2005 – Honored by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg for her Outstanding Contributions to New York City
2004 – Honored in a program by Channel 13 “Immigrant Women Pursuing The American Dream”
2000 and 1996 – Woman of the Year, United Jewish Appeal
1994 – Woman of the Year, Long Island Business Association

Vice President

Rina Kirshner received her undergraduate education in international relations, finance and management at Wharton School of Business and University of Pennsylvania, and received her MBA in finance at NYU Stern School of Business, graduating with honors in all degrees. In her early years, she had a successful career in international business with a focus on Russia. However, after a number of years in the private sector where she experienced the complexity of US-Russian relations, Rina decided to dedicate herself to promoting Russian-American dialogue through non-profit initiatives in the fields of culture, education, sports, and health.

In 1997, Rina co-founded the Russian American Foundation (RAF). Since then, in her role as vice president of RAF, Rina has been an active champion of not only the Russian-speaking community in the U.S, but also of Russian-American relations globally. Rina has been instrumental in partnering with mainstream corporations, organizations, and media. Rina promotes bi-lateral dialogue through RAF’s initiatives and programs in various arenas including youth programming, cultural preservation, healthcare, entertainment, and others.

Rina’s personal passion is youth education: she launched and still oversees RAF’s annual Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive; partners with the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and the American Councils for International Education on designing RAF’s NSLI-Y overseas exchange program; and has served as “principal for a day” in the highly acclaimed PENCIL private/public school initiative.