Veteran Finnish diplomat Max Jakobson addressed the state of foreign relations between Moscow and Helsinski during a luncheon at Nokia’s corporate headquarters.

The Wednesday event, sponsored by the Jewish Business Lunch program of Chabad-Lubavitch of Finland, brought together Helsinki-area professionals for a chance to network and listen to the views of Jakobson, a one-time contender for United Nations general secretary before his candidacy was shot down by Russia.

Noting that the Russia of today is quite different from the Soviet Union of the past, Jakobson, a former ambassador who continues to travel the world and meet with heads of state, pointed out that some 34,000 people of Finnish nationality live in the neighboring country to the east. He spoke of a bright future in relations between the two nations – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev just recently concluded a state visit to the Finnish capital – and told the group about his own recent trip to Moscow.

He also asserted, contrary to other analyses, that the Soviet veto of his 1971 bid for the top UN post had “more to do with my being Finnish, than being Jewish.”

Attendees found the discussion enlightening.

“This was a very high-class gathering,” said Helsinki resident Kent Nadbornik, who works in the health care industry. “It was very interesting to hear him talk.”

Nadbornik also said that he was impressed with the chance to talk with a group of people from different fields. He was planning to attend next month’s lunch at the Israeli Embassy, which will feature an address by Ambassador Avi Granot.

Rabbi Benyamin Wolff, the co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Finland who began the lunch series two years ago, said that the goal of the meetings is to illuminate Jewish values and encourage attendees to infuse their daily lives with G‑dly teachings. At each lunch, he typically delivers a short Torah-based message.

“Some people have the idea that G‑d is only for the Shabbat table,” said Wolff. “But G‑d is always there, when you do business, when you ride your bike.”

In addition to JBL, Chabad-Lubavitch of Finland also runs an array of programming for the estimated 1,300 Jews living in Helsinki and its environs. Directed by the rabbi and his wife, Fruma Itta Wolff, the center offers ongoing Torah classes, a women’s circle, Mommy-and-Me, Shabbat and holiday services and meals, and clubs for Americans, Israelis and teenagers.

Past discussions led by Wolff have focused on the application of Jewish principles to business ethics, and what happens when people sacrifice those principles. Keynote speakers at other events have included Polish Ambassador Johana Hofman and Ken Pasternak, an institutional investor and co-author of Performance at the Limit: Business Lessons from Formula 1 Motor Racing.

Nadbornik, 65, said that he tries to come every month.

“You get something out of it not only from the social side,” he explained. “Benyamin can relate to the Talmud and many other sources in ways we never thought of.”

Just as important, he added, the meetings help keep a perspective on what’s happening in the economic and political worlds.

“I think it’s a very giving situation,” said Nadbornik. “We are in a crisis, but we can also sit down and discuss current events, and see where we are and where do we go from here.”