Ever since I was a kid, I always dreamed of studying in Europe or America, but recently I entered the State Pedagogical University of Moldova to study psychology. I made the decision to stay in my hometown — Chișinău, Moldova — because I want to see what happens next for my Jewish community, and I want to be part of making it happen.
My dad always called me his “little Jewish lady,” and I thought of myself the same way, even if I didn’t have a sense when I was younger of what those words really meant. My mother’s family is from Vinnytsia, Ukraine, and my father’s family is from Poland, and though we are Jewish, we’re not particularly religious. We only really celebrated secular holidays growing up, and I never thought much about my roots.
That changed three years ago, when my best friend invited me to a Passover seder at KEDEM, the JDC-supported Jewish Community Center (JCC) located at our city’s Kishinev Jacobs Jewish Campus. I’d heard of Passover before, but all I knew was that it was some sort of Jewish holiday. I wanted to know more, and from my first seconds at the Seder, I knew I had found my way home.
These last years have changed my life. I’ve become one of the most active participants in our community’s programs, and I developed my own project, where I helped other teens learn about notable Jewish figures who’ve contributed to the world around us. After completing two seminars, I joined AJTeam, AJT’s international school of madrichim (counselors), and I now have the chance to pass my knowledge and experience on to others
During the pandemic, I’ve worked hard to move Jewish life online and keep my friends connected. We’ve organized all sorts of things, like a virtual Passover event where teens could text with Moses and Pharoah, and a weekly Kabbalat Shabbat on Instagram Live. I’m even working on a board game about life in the shtetl.
I’ve fallen in love with Judaism, and just a few years ago, I didn’t know what Passover was.
I’ve lived and breathed AJT for three years, and my community is my home and my family. I’ve fallen in love with Judaism, and just a few years ago, I didn’t know what Passover was.
Last year, I made the decision to become a congressman representing Moldova in the AJT Parliament, the self-government structure for our network of thousands of Jewish teenagers across the former Soviet Union. Representing my country on an international stage, I was again reminded of how much I love my Chișinău community and how much I want to help it continue to grow.
This is my vow to all who support us: The next generation will make you proud. We are proud Jews, and we will develop something unique, beautiful, and meaningful here in the former Soviet Union.
Anna Véprentseva, 18, is an AJT madricha (counselor) from Chișinău, Moldova.
JDC’s Active Jewish Teens (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. JDC’s 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.