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New JCC in Kharkov Shines Light on Growing Community

When communism fell and the Soviet Union broke apart, Kharkov’s Jewish community was faced with the huge challenge of finding all of its members scattered and hidden by decades of anti-semitism. No one could have imagined 20 years later there would be a community 40,000-strong and in need of a new JCC to serve its thriving membership.

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Hasidim Make Rosh Hashanah Pilgrimage to Ukraine

We at JDC know well that Rosh Hashanah traditions can take on their own unique flair from one country to another. A recent article in Slate shares that for the 35,000 Hasidim (ultra Orthodox Jews) that embarked on the annual pilgrimage to Uman, Ukraine (125 miles south of Kiev where the Breslov Hasidic sect’s founder, Rabbi Nachman, is buried), it was an inclusive and nearly 200-year-old “pray, eat, love” fest.

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Post-Holocaust History Made in Prague

Among the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis against Jews was the confiscation of property, including synagogues, Jewish schools, cemeteries, other land, art, jewelry, and anything else of value. Worse still, in some cases, proceeds from the sale of this property by the Nazis actually helped fund war-related activities that we know all too well took the lives of 6 million Jews and many others. After the Holocaust, these properties were nationalized by the communist governments that were in power for more than 40 years. Since that time, efforts have been made to achieve some small measure of justice by helping both individuals and communities get back this wrongly seized property (or more often, financial compensation in lieu of the property).

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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.

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Reflections on Renewal Continue

A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about a unique Yom Hashoah commemoration event in which a few JDC Jewish Service Corps fellows shared their experiences working in communities that have had difficult histories due to war or genocide. Molly, one of the presenters, is currently volunteering in various community programs with both local and immigrant Jewish populations in Berlin, Germany. Read her recent reflections on the JSC seminar, the connection between Jewish renewal and Yom Hashoah, and how her own family’s history is woven into her experience as a fellow in a country that epitomizes the quest for a Jewish “renaissance.”

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Family Ties … from New York to Odessa

Violetta, a New Yorker who is JDC’s Ralph I. Goldman Fellow working with the Jewish community in Odessa, recently had the opportunity to blog about her heartening reunion with her great-aunt, an Odessa resident. This family visit presents another reminder about the importance of JDC’s Jewish renewal work in the former Soviet Union and how one Jewish family, oceans apart, view their identity and traditions. Young Jews are increasingly interested in global service and Violetta, through JDC’s prestigious Ralph I. Goldman Fellowship, has become one of many who are heeding the call to serve those in need through JDC programs.

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