Community Building in Russia Takes Off with Knafaim Program

“It is not more bigness that should be our goal. We must attempt, rather, to bring people back to...the warmth of community, to the worth of individual effort and responsibility...and of individuals working together as a community, to better their lives and their children’s future.” This quote, from Robert F. Kennedy, speaks to a new JDC-funded program for Russian Jews, Knafaim (wings), which seeks to build Jewish communal life by engaging young professionals with educational opportunities to learn about Jewish culture in addition to offering seminars on general management and leadership-skills building.

The thinking is that strong professionals—even if they are not actively involved in Jewish life—are necessary to build successful and sustainable Jewish community institutions. JTA covered Knafaim earlier this month and cited a few recent participants who are combining their careers with their Jewish “identities” in an effort to grow Jewish community presence in Russia. For instance, Ilya, an owner of a web design firm, is developing a website that will cover Jewish life in Moscow and Natalya, an architecture student, used her design skills to create a line of Jewish-themed t-shirts and revamped Knafaim’s marketing brochure.

Since the fall of communism in the former Soviet Union in 1991, JDC has helped lead the renewal of Jewish communities, as we know that the only way to ensure a global Jewish future is to get the young and old involved in community building now. And by offering people the opportunity to contribute in a way that is personally significant, their commitment to cultivating viable community life is that much greater.

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