What can the elderly teach us about Passover? As an educator at the JDC-supported Tula Regional Jewish Charitable Center (“Hasdey Neshama”) in Tula, Russia, Grigoriy Morozov reflects on why intergenerational education is so important during the Passover season.
I have always wanted to be a bridge between the past and the future, to pass down the wisdom of those who are no longer with us to those who are not yet adults.
Everyone here wants to learn and help each other: Intergenerational education is a joint project.
As a teacher working with teens, the elderly, and volunteers at the JDC-supported Tula Regional Jewish Charitable Center (“Hasdey Neshama”) here in Tula, Russia — a city of about 500,000 located 120 miles south of Moscow — I can be this bridge. Everyone here wants to learn and help each other. Teens share their infinite energy with the elderly, and the elderly share their infinite wisdom with the teens. Intergenerational education is a joint project.
My Jewish story began in April 2012, when my supervisor at university asked me to coordinate a children’s project for Tula’s Jewish community. I started by leading a Sunday School group, and then led a program for the Hesed Neshama family Shabbat retreat. From the very beginning, I developed activities that inspired young people to be curious, passionate leaders.
I’ve been connected to the community ever since. What I love most about my work is that I never get bored. The community keeps me busy with different activities. This job requires creativity, compassion, and perseverance, and I find talking to so many people — hearing their opinions and creating something together — to be so educational.
With JDC’s support, I never stop learning, and I also never stop teaching. This Passover, I’ll do what I usually do with other Jewish holidays: use historical research, archeological data, and primary documents to bring the holiday to life. For both the elderly and my teenage students, the Passover story evokes themes and questions that are relevant to their most urgent and present-day concerns.
We learn about slavery, for instance, and discuss how this deeply unjust system changed throughout history. We talk about the experience of escape, of walking long distances, away from harm and home. My students always grow curious about the historical context of other Jewish holidays, and they ask more and more questions. We always have a fruitful discussion.
Passover teaches us a clear and crucial lesson — that we must be free in our mind. In slavery, all of your choices are made for you. Life today can sometimes feel like this, too. We stress at work, relax at home, and start the routine all over again. It’s easy to fall into living like that; many people don’t even think about what to value or how to live. They don’t even try to listen to each other. For many of us, it’s easier to criticize someone than to empathize with them.
This reminds me of slavery. And we cannot overcome it until we learn to dream, empathize, and try new things, to expand our minds. A good teacher inspires us to do all of these things. An excellent teacher teaches us how to live a good life.
Each day, I learn this lesson from my elderly students. They’re also, in their way, teachers.They teach me how to live a freer and more joyful Jewish life; that’s what Passover is all about.
They aren’t just clients. They are the people I look up to.
A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, I cannot imagine Tula without JDC. I don’t just work for a social welfare center. I work for an organization that saves lives. Hasdey Neshama is a place where vulnerable Jews receive the care they need and deserve. Without JDC, what would these people do?
My mission is to show the Jewish community that when we see things clearly, for what they are, life becomes beautiful.When you live an honest life, you are full of energy and surrounded by people that understand you. It inspires you, and gives you a feeling of comfort and security. You are grateful for every sunrise.
That is what I live and work for, and that is what JDC has allowed me to do.
Grigoriy Morozov, is the youth programs coordinator at the JDC-supported Tula Regional Jewish Charitable Center (“Hasdey Neshama”) in Tula, Russia, where he develops educational programs for elderly and teenage students alike. Grigoriy also coordinates programming for Active Jewish Teens (AJT) and is a published writer.
JDC’s AJT was founded in 2014 by local teens, and JDC, a key investor in Jewish life in the post-Soviet space, with partner BBYO, the world’s largest pluralistic Jewish teen movement.
AJT is powered by a partnership with the Genesis Philanthropy Group and is part of the BBYO global movement. Across the former Soviet Union, more than 3,200 Jewish teenagers participate in AJT teen clubs in 63 cities.