Feature Stories

Connecting to Jewish Roots, Young Leader Builds Peer Network

Knafaim participants benefit from a program encompassing personal development, Jewish education, and project management and are empowered to design and implement their own Jewish-themed projects that benefit the larger community.
Knafaim participants benefit from a program encompassing personal development, Jewish education, and project management and are empowered to design and implement their own Jewish-themed projects that benefit the larger community.

Tanya Kirzner was born in Bashkriya, Central Russia, and grew up in a small town of 50,000 in Siberia. But it wasn’t until she moved to Moscow at age 17 that her personal story really began to unfold.

When she arrived at Moscow State University of Lomonosov to pursue a degree in English and Italian, many of her new acquaintances inquired about her family and background, and some inquired whether she was German, based on her surname. She became interested in uncovering her family heritage and started digging. She learned from her grandfather that he originally came from western Ukraine, but he left when the war started, after he lost both of his parents. And then her mother revealed that she was Jewish. “I’d never been to the Jewish community before. I knew nothing about this part of my life.” She was now on a journey of self-discovery and it wasn’t long before she found JDC’s Knafaim program. “Knafaim helped me open the door to the Jewish community,” she beams.

Based in Moscow, the Knafaim program cultivates young, local Jewish leadership. The year-long program provides young adults (ages 20-30) with education and training to enhance their management abilities, improve their professional skills, and broaden their Jewish knowledge, all in order to deepen their connection to the Jewish community and nurture constant and continuous involvement in Jewish life in Moscow.

Tanya learned of the program through a friend and decided to apply, thinking it might be a good way to meet other young Jews. She joined the program’s first class, consisting of 21 of her peers who demonstrate the creativity, drive, and ability to become community leaders. The program encompasses components of personal development, Jewish education, and project management and empowers the participants to design and implement their own ecological, educational, or social Jewish-themed projects that benefit the larger community as a whole and the Jewish community in particular.

Tanya’s project—a Yeda seminar—was inspired by her own success in Russia’s booming energy sector and her desire to create educational and networking opportunities for young Jews in the business world. Because Knafaim participants take ownership of the development, funding, and implementation of their project, Tanya worked hard to get Jewish experts, sponsors, and participants onboard; in turn, she began to feel that she was becoming a part of an expansive community herself.

Following great feedback from attendees of her first session—who felt the program gave them access to valuable networking opportunities and job prospects for the future—Tanya is already at work designing the program for the next session.

“It’s difficult to attract the right people because there are a lot of different ways young people can spend their time in Moscow,” said Tanya, reflecting on the competitive nature of conducting successful programs in her city. But with the vision and commitment of young leaders like herself, it looks like JDC and Knafaim are on the right track.

“I’m very grateful to Knafaim because this program has enriched my life with a new understanding of who I am and helped me connect to my roots,” said Tanya. “It is hard to overestimate the importance of this connection.”

Tags for this story: Youth / Young Adults

Subscribe to our RSS feed: Feature Stories – JDC Around the World
X

An error occurred during your login.

X

JDC, Cookies, and Your Privacy

Cookies are small pieces of information sent by our web server for storage on your computer, to be retrieved when you return to this site. We use cookies to allow you faster, more convenient access, and to prevent you from being required to log in on every page of our sites.

For more information on JDC’s use of cookies, read our Privacy Policy.

X

An Error Occurred

X

Logging In With One of Your Social Web Site Logins

Instead of trying to remember a bunch of special username/password combinations to log in to different web sites that you visit, you can now link your account on this web site to your account on one (or more) of the social media web sites shown and log in with the same username/password combination that you use on that social web site to log in to our site.

To provide this connection in a secure manner, we use Gigya, a social network connection provider that works behind the scenes to make safe, secure connections between user accounts on different systems, such as popular social media web sites like Facebook and web sites like ours where you are actively involved in social issues and causes.

Each time you log in, Gigya uses special application programming interfaces (APIs) to establish the connection between the sites and validate your username and password. Neither our web site or Gigya receive or store your social network passwords.

In addition to reducing the number of logins you have to remember, connecting your accounts can make it quicker and easier to share an activity or cause you feel passionately about from our web site with your friends on your social web sites.

You can break the connection between your accounts at any time.