Personal Connections

June 20, 2013
BY Maayan Jaffe Photos Provided
From left: Vadim Kashtelyan, Stephanie Hague, Ellen Goldman and Paula Farbman visit with a homebound Hesed client (center) who relies on The American Jewish Joint  Distribution Committee’s  program for health and social

From left: Vadim Kashtelyan, Stephanie Hague, Ellen Goldman and Paula Farbman visit with a homebound Hesed client (center) who relies on The American Jewish Joint
Distribution Committee’s
program for health and social

Twelve communal leaders and two professionals from The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore returned on May 26 from a mission to Baltimore’s sister city, Odessa, in the Former Soviet Union. The seven-day trip was in the works, according to Baltimore-Odessa Partnership Committee Co-chair Andrew Razumovsky, for upwards of nine months.

Odessa is proud of its two Jewish Community Centers, which offer a wide array of  programs, including art classes for both children and adults.

Odessa is proud of its two Jewish Community Centers, which offer a wide array of
programs, including art classes for both children and adults.

“We tried to model a lot of things based on the success of the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership,” said Razumovsky. “The only way to make [the partnership] successful is to build personal connections.”

Razumovsky said one of the most important outcomes of the mission was the hiring of a local Odessa coordinator, who will serve as a liaison between the Baltimore and Odessa communities. Another success was the percentage of Russian speakers who traveled with the group. Of the 12 lay people, four were Russian.

“One-and-a-half-million people left the Former Soviet Union because of Operation Exodus,” Razumovsky said. “No one in the Soviet Union grew up with a concept of charity, of giving or philanthropy. Here, we want to get everyone more involved, so our kids will know about that — and teach their kids.”

Neil Leikach (left) and Jason Blavatt (right), of Baltimore, with Avrom Suslovich of the JDC, shop for Hesed clients with JDC food cards that enable clients to purchase products of their choice.

Neil Leikach (left) and Jason Blavatt (right), of Baltimore, with Avrom Suslovich of the JDC, shop for Hesed clients with JDC food cards that enable clients to purchase products of their choice.

Razumovsky said a 2014 mission is being discussed, and more information will be available in the coming months.

Dancers at the Beit Grand JCC strike a pose as a part of a performance put on for the group’s final night in Odessa.

Dancers at the Beit Grand JCC strike a pose as a part of a performance put on for the group’s final night in Odessa.


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