Tag Archives: Associated

International Moishe Houses Gather In Odessa

Moishe House

By: Marina Moldavanskaya

Last week, Odessa was proud to host the international conference for Russian-speaking Moishe Houses. Yevgeniy Klig, the Director of Russian-speaking Jewish Programming shared, “The conference was comprised of the residents of all Russian-speaking Moishe Houses in the former Soviet Union and the United States. The purpose of the conference was to provide an opportunity for the residents to share experiences of their communities, to learn new skills and information from professional trainers and other Moishe Houses and, of course, to establish deep friendships and relationships that will lead to better relations between young adult Jewish communities in different cities.”

The program included a history of Moishe House as well as a review of goals and objectives. The participants had a chance to get to know the Russian-speaking American Moishe Houses that were successful in engaging young adults from Russian-speaking families in New York and Chicago. The conference aimed to assist Moishe House residents in creating projects, planning volunteer programs, making budgets and attracting visitors.

Odessa Moishe House opened in November 2012 with four residents, yet, it very quickly proved to be a strong community space for young adults. Each month, the residents organize a minimum of seven programs. In addition, the Odessa Moishe House received the award for the Best Moishe House in April 2013, topping 54 other houses.

Odessa Hosts 2013 Limmud Conference

2013 LimmudBy: Marina Moldavanskaya

For the third time, Odessa was proud to host this month’s Limmud Conference. Limmud is a celebration of Jewish education and relationship building through unique lectures, trainings, workshops, discussions, meetings, concerts, discos, night gatherings and more.

This year, the Limmud Conference was dedicated to the connections between Odessa and Tel Aviv as well as the 140th anniversary of Chaim Nahman Bialik. Many families from Odessa moved to Israel and ultimately settled in Tel Aviv; therefore, the city has absorbed Odessa architecture and culture. The first mayor of Tel Aviv was Meir Dizengoff who lived, studied and joined the Zionist movement in Odessa. After Dizengoff became the head of the town planning in 1911, Dizengoff was elected mayor when Tel Aviv was recognized as a city. Chaim Nahman Bialik is a very important model for the Jewish people in Odessa and worldwide. A Jewish poet who wrote both in Hebrew and Yiddish, Bialik was one of the pioneers of modern Hebrew poetry and was eventually recognized as Israel’s national poet. Limmud 2013

Four hundred people from the former Soviet Union took part in the conference. The participants had the wonderful opportunity to attend lectures of many outstanding scientists, artists, journalists and politicians from Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, Belarussia and Israel.

Jewish organizations in Odessa actively participated in the Limmud conference. JCC Migdal was a key partner of the conference as their staff was responsible for the logistics of the program. They coordinated the participants of the southern region and provided many of the speakers. JCC Beit Grand offered the Limmud conference participants many interesting hand-on projects in their studios and organized the Klezmer musical and stand-up comic event, all of which highlighted Odessa’s thriving community and proud Jewish history.

A Letter to Israel


Dear Israel,

Everything I know about you, I know secondhand. I know that you are a country swirling with vibrant colors and cultures, where spirituality rubs elbows with technology. I know that you are country filled with passion, a sabra mentality of tough encasing soft. I know your history, born from the fires of the Holocaust.

Everything I know about you, Israel, I know secondhand.

I talk to people about you. They always pause, gathering their thoughts to answer the collective question: Where to begin? And their stories always, always, always come back to family and identity.

Debbie Attman told me about her first visit to Israel. Last year, she went on a Heart to Heart mission with The Associated. She is forever grateful. “My parents told me to visit Israel. I didn’t listen then,” she says. “The minute I stepped off the plane, I felt my parents’ arms around me.

“Everyone is so proud to be Jewish, it’s so comfortable,” she says. She remembers Shabbat in Jerusalem, unlike any Shabbat she knew before. Everywhere she turned, she connected. “I got it. I got what they were talking about. I got what it means to be Jewish.”

Debbie’s daughter joined her on the trip. The family is returning this spring, for her grandson’s Bar Mitzvah. “My parents would be overjoyed to know that their great-grandson is marking his Bar Mitzvah in Israel.”

Everything I know about you, Israel, I know secondhand.

I know that you have repeat customers. Until recently, I never understood why someone would go back … especially with a world of places to discover. What I’ve learned is that a return trip is a new trip. I talked to Ellyn Polakoff about her Heart to Heart experience. It was her second visit. “You could go 100 times and have a different experience each time,” she says. “I remember going to the Wall and seeing the soldiers. You cannot imagine the feeling, unless you are there.” She remembers visiting a high-tech school where students learned, just a few miles from the bombs over Sderot. She met women learning skills for self-sufficiency and heard stories from a Holocaust survivor who found a home in Israel. She wants to return.

Everyone does, says Laurie Luskin, who chaired the national Heart to Heart mission. “Every time you go, it’s a different experience, she says. “It’s never a been there or done that. You realize that you have been changed after visiting Israel.”

I think it’s a visceral, intoxicating connection – no one seems to get enough of that feeling of belonging … of coming home. No zip code in the States has that same pull.

Dear Israel, I know that my grandparents visited you, back in the 1970s.

They weren’t much for travel, never even had a passport until then. But, you, you they would see. I imagine that it was a virtual fist-bump to their parents, who came here from Russia, leaving family behind, whose letters stopped one day. I imagine it was a dream come true, a victory, for them to see the Jewish homeland firsthand.

And even though my grandmother was recovering from the brutal treatment regimen that defined early cancer care, they went. How could they not? It was their only trip. It was their last trip.

Israel, I have news for you.

Baltimore is on the way. Again.

In February, The Associated is joining the national Jewish Federations of North America Heart to Heart mission. We’ll spend a meaningful, inspiring Shabbat in Jerusalem and visit Ashkelon, our sister city, as a Baltimore group. Then, we’ll join the national mission. We’ll see the sights, talk with people making a difference, explore and understand how all of us are part and parcel of Israel – today and tomorrow.

Every woman is invited to be a part of this life-changing mission.

Israel, in my dream come true, I’ll be there, too.

Heart to Heart 2014 Baltimore experience: Thursday, February 6 through Saturday, February 8 Heart to Heart: Sunday, February 9 through Thursday, February 13 Costs: $2350, land-only, double-occupancy, plus additional costs to be determined for Baltimore experience; flights coordinated through Gil Travel at 212-284-6660. A leadership gift to The Associated’s 2014 Annual Campaign is requested. For more information, contact Liz Schuman, 410-369-9251 or eschuman@associated.org.

Meet Marina


By Marina Moldavanskaya
Baltimore-Odessa Partnership Coordinator

Sometimes one decision can completely change your life. My mother was invited to her cousin’s wedding but decided not to attend simply because she had nothing to wear. Her uncle convinced her to come because he wanted to introduce her to a “nice Jewish guy” – my father. This is how my family story began.

When I was a little girl I spent a lot of time with at my grandmother’s home in a small city in eastern Ukraine. My grandmother is a ghetto survivor and her mother and one-year-old sister were killed in World War II. Now my grandmother receives medical and food support from the JDC Hesed Center. As a child, I didn’t fully understand what it meant to be Jewish, but everything changed when my brother began at the Jewish World ORT School in Odessa. Since our parents grew up in the Soviet Union, they knew very little about Jewish culture and traditions. My mother spoke Yiddish and knew Jewish song and recipes but that was the extent of her knowledge. My father’s family always was very poor but he was motivated to attend college. He was never accepted because he identified with being Jewish.

When I was seven, I began at the same school as my brother and we quickly became our parents teachers on Jewish history and traditions. When I was 16 and a madricha at the Israeli Cultural Center, I attended my first Shabbaton. After three seminars and Shabbatons, I began volunteering at the youth club of the Israeli Cultural Center. When I was 18, I became the head of Beitar, an Israeli leadership development program originally founded by Vladimir Zeev Jabotinsky. The Beit Grand JCC, the second JCC in Odessa, was opened in 2008 and I became a volunteer there as well. This past June, I received my Masters degree in English, Spanish linguistics and foreign literature.

It’s impossible to live in the Former Soviet Union and not feel the pain and suffering the Jewish people experienced. But living in Odessa means something more — you also see the great heritage of the Jewish people from this great city. I always feel proud to be Jewish in this wonderful city.

In my new position as the Baltimore-Odessa Partnership Coordinator, I am excited to carry on the very work that allowed me to get here in the first place. In this role, I am connected to the wide array of Jewish programming in our community. I am excited to help develop projects between our two communities that will generate mutual relationships and connections between people. The future projects will create long-lasting bonds that will educate us about our Jewish family around the world as well as make the connection between Baltimore and Odessa even stronger.

To contact Marina, email mmoldavanskaya@gmail.com

My Journey To Israel


By Danielle Gelber

A Jewish day school attendee since age three, I always knew about Israel. I learned about the history, the language and the culture, but still the notion of a Jewish homeland remained foreign.

When I was in 10th grade, I applied to the Diller Teen Fellows Program, one of the teen leadership programs organized by The Associated’s Jewish Volunteer Connection, hoping to meet Jewish teens from the Baltimore area, gain leadership experience and visit Israel. What I didn’t realize was that as a participant in Diller, I would not just visit Israel, but fall in love with Israel as a culture, a homeland and a heart of the Jewish people.

As part of the program, the North American cities travel to Israel in the summer. The three week summer trip is divided into three sections: one week devoted to touring, one week devoted to meeting and learning from Diller fellows from North America and Israel and one week spent in the home of your match from your delegation’s partner city. On the Baltimore delegation’s final night in Israel, we sat cross-legged with knees touching in a tight maagal lilah, taking turns reflecting on our favorite part of the trip. For some of my peers who were enjoying their first trip to Israel, the touring week was their favorite. Others enjoyed hearing opinions from teens, staff and guest speakers during Congress, the week dedicated to dialogue between the Diller delegations.

The week in Ashkelon was my favorite. It was the first time in my visits to Israel that I stopped feeling like a tourist awkwardly navigating the streets of Israel with a neon orange Orioles baseball cap plastered to my forehead, a black L.L.Bean backpack tightly strapped to my back and the words “Slicha, efo hasherutim” etched in my memory.

During the week in Ashkelon, I lived at the home of the Hatav Family, a welcoming family of six whose eldest daughter, Osher, had stayed at my house during the North American Seminar in March. Together, we went to the supermarket to buy groceries for Shabbat dinner. The next day, I chatted with some of Osher’s friends from high school after we walked to the local store to buy an ice cream snack. On Sunday, I went to the mall with Osher, her mom and her sister on a mission to find the goofiest clothes in the mall. Since that week in Ashkelon, I think of Israel as the home of my sister Osher where I am always welcome.

Feeling inspired after finishing my Diller experience, I continued my involvement in Judaism as an undergraduate student at Boston University. Because Hebrew is my way of connecting to Israel and Judaism, I have taken Hebrew every semester since starting college. After recognizing my progress in the program, the head of the Hebrew department asked me to tutor other students struggling with Hebrew. In this role, I hope to help others develop their connections to Judaism.

Following our graduation from the Diller program, many of my peers have gotten involved Jewishly on campus, as well. For example, Justin Hayet, a rising sophomore at SUNY Binghamton University, attended both AIPAC Saban Leadership Conference for college students and the annual Policy Conference during his freshman year. Justin also spent his summer interning at the Baltimore Jewish Times. Among other extracurriculars, Alex Kadish devoted her time freshman year to Chabad House at George Washington University as a member of the General Board, a group of students dedicated to planning religious events and coordinating new student outreach initiatives. Starting this year, Alex is slated as the Israel Liason for Chabad; in this role she will help integrate Israel into Chabad programming and events. As a freshman at the University of Maryland, Eli Davis joined the historically Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi and became a member of the Jews in Greek Life Fellowship, a Hillel-sponsored organization comprised of Jews in Greek life who serve as lay leaders between the Jewish and Greek communities on campus.

These teens serve as examples of how Diller encourages its participants to explore their connections to Israel through their individualized interests, whether it’s language, politics, religion or community. The personal connections my friends and I have developed make our dedication to Israel so sustainable. I am thankful to the Diller program for strengthening my pride as a Jew and as a member of the Baltimore Jewish community.