More than one hundred fifty Jewish educators, community professionals, and volunteers from the former Soviet Union and Israel will gather in Lvov, Ukraine on October 13 to take part in the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s fourth annual Jewish Informal Education Conference. The four-day confab on community-building and Jewish learning will engage participants in a variety of network-building opportunities, knowledge sharing workshops, and Jewish education best practices. They will also explore contemporary Jewish life in the former Soviet Union and the significance of the Galicia region to Jewish history.
‘Its nothing short of miraculous that Lvov is once again playing host to this vast region’s Jewish revival. The passionate desire among these educators to improve their fluency in our tradition and to bring it home to their local Jewish communities is testament to the work we have been doing for more than twenty years,’ said Ofer Glanz, Director of JDC’s Former Soviet Union Department.
Conference participants — who work for Jewish community centers, Hesed welfare centers, youth clubs, family retreats, kindergartens, and other Jewish outlets throughout the FSU — will also lead sessions on spirituality, assimilation, Jewish culture and history, Israel, and religious practice. Additional workshops relate to the development of Jewish arts with an emphasis on crafts, theater, and music. Participants will also tour several fortified synagogues, a rare and unique architectural style that once proliferated in the area.
Among those attending are Kolya Rilan, a Kishinev-based social entrepreneur who founded a Jewish youth club five years ago that today boasts 400 members and hosts a range of cultural and social activities on weekends and Jewish holidays; Kharkov educator Zhenya Loftnik, who is devoted to the revival of Yiddish in Eastern Europe and organized a series of Yiddish-language and cultural events including music concerts, dance contests, and poetry readings; and Alla Magas, 30, also of Kharkov and a graduate of a progressive Jewish educators institute, will share her experiences as an educator in Eastern Europe.
For centuries, Galicia and its capital Lvov were home to one of the largest Jewish populations in Europe. Known for their spirituality and candor, ‘Galitzianers,’ as locals were called in Yiddish, were immortalized in the novels of Sholem Aleichem and paintings of Marc Chagall. Jewish communities in the region were decimated by the Holocaust, yet about 5,000 Jews still call it home. Today in Lvov and the surrounding area, JDC operates a Hesed, supports a local JCC, and a variety of other services and programs for the Jewish community.