Betsy Gidwitx Reports

Rabbi Mikhail Rosenfeld described the Galitzky synagogue as a program center trying to attract an audience. Religious services are held according to a regular schedule, he said. About 40 people attend the synagogue on Friday evenings and on Shabbat mornings. Holidays draw a larger group. A Sunday school attracts eight to 15 youngsters; attendance is "unstable," he said. All holidays are celebrated, sometimes in professionally-led theater-type performances in order to attract people. For example, a Purim shpiel is professionally performed, and major festivities are staged for Shavuot, Yom Ha'atzma'ut (Israel Independence Day), and other special days. Lecturers from Israel make presentations. A "face-to-face" series also attempts to attract the local Jewish intelligentsia; this series features local economists, historians, and other specialists who speak on Jewish subjects, Israel, current events in the Middle East, and other subjects that might be of interest to educated Ukrainian Jews.


Rabbi Pinchas Rosenfeld, who entered the discussion somewhat late due to childcare issues, expressed frustration with his work in Kyiv. Everything here in Ukraine that is Jewish, he stated, is "artificial". The task of the Rosenfeld brothers is to create high-level Jewish programs that attract the Jewish intelligentsia; these programs should include not only Judaism as a religion, he declared, but also Jewish culture and Jewish history. Russian-speaking Jews need rabbis who are well-educated, wise, and native Russian-speakers. The rabbis in Podil, said the Rosenfeld brothers, don't think. They just talk and repeat what they have heard elsewhere, especially in their yeshivas. That methodology, the brothers continued, may work for laborers and others who do not live in the intellectual world, but it is not effective for the intelligentsia. Contemporary Russian Jews require a much more sophisticated type of Jewish education. Further, said Rabbi Pinchas Rosenfeld, only an approach to Judaism that is rooted in Russian culture will encourage Russian-speaking Jews to re-claim their Jewish heritage. Former haredim often come to Galitzky to discuss these issues with them, the rabbis said.


In addition to creating and directing programs at the Galitzky synagogue, the two brothers also develop Jewish program content for the Jewish Agency and for JDC. Rabbi Pinchas Rosenfeld also works with Hillel. Rabbi Pinchas Rosenfeld acknowledged that they have attracted few local Jews to a substantial Judaism, interest in Jewish history, or concern about other Jewish matters. He sees no deep commitment among indigenous Kyiv Jews to anything Jewish. His two-year commit-ment to Galitzky ends soon and he is thinking about returning to Israel to educate Russian-speaking Jews within Israel. He would like to develop a program that is responsive and attractive to the intellectual heritage of Russian-speaking Jews. He is very frustrated in Kyiv and sees little point in continuing to work there when he doesn't believe in what he is doing. Whatever he does professionally, he said, must be rooted in Russian culture and he would like to work in an environment where he is able to pursue that approach intensively.




Israeli Rabbis Mikhail Rosenfeld (left) and Pinchas Rosenfeld with the child of the latter are seen in an office at the Galitzky synagogue.



Photo: the writer.


Current financial supporters of the Galitzky program are the Genesis Philanthropy Group of Moscow, the Pincus Fund of the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Dutch Jewish Humanitarian Fund ((Joods Humanitair Fonds), and a few local people. A religious Zionist youth group in Israel provides funds for summer and winter camps that enroll about 100 Galitzky students and young adults, said the Rosenfeld brothers.



82. Limmud is very active in Ukraine, holding at least one three-day conference annually. The next Limmud event is scheduled for October in Odesa, said Iosif Akselrud, who is the volunteer chairman of Limmud Ukraine.[133] He anticipates an attendance of as many as 600 people for the Odesa program, which will feature the 65th anniversary of Israel as a theme. Presenters include professionals and laypeople who will speak on Israeli history, culture, Zionism, and other topics of interest. It is likely that 60 to 70 percent of those in attendance will be Hillel veterans, said Mr. Akselrud.



83. Moishe House in Kyiv continues to offer a variety of programs designed to encourage Jewish young adult participation in Jewish life. Some programs take place within their subsidized large apartment and others mobilize participants as a group in the greater Jewish community. Among the apartment activities are Shabbat dinners and services, havdala, presentations by various local and visiting experts on Jewish topics, and Jewish trivia competitions. Occasionally, they said, they even engage in frivolus activities, such as forming a musical ensemble that used tin cans, kitchen pots and pans, and comparable items as musical instruments.


In the broader community. Moishe House organizes groups to participate in community-wide events, such as Israel Independence Day celebrations. They also assemble teams of volunteer to work on specific projects.


The writer spoke with the four young women who reside in Moishe House Victoria Milanova , far left, has lived in Moishe House for several years. She is the office manager at the Galtizky synagogue and previously worked for JDC; she is a native of Kirovohrad and a graduate of Project Kesher programs. Olga Bard, second from left, works at the European Jewish Union, an organization founded and led by two Ukrainian oligarchs, Vadym Rabynovych and Ihor Kolo-moisky. Olga is from Brovary, a small city to the east of Kyiv. She was a Lewis Summer Intern at the Jewish Fed-eration of Metropolitan Chicago. Anna Pekina, second from right, is from Luhansk in eastern Ukraine and now works in tourism in Kyiv. Anna is active in several Jewish community programs. Her sister and her family live in Jerusalem. Anna Taube, far right, is from Kharkiv and worked in the Jewish community there. She now directs a puppet theater in Kyiv, but would like to live in Jerusalem someday.

Photo: the writer.


Moishe House maintains contact with interested Jewish young adults in their 20's and early 30's by email. The four residents stated that the program is non-political and non-denominational among Jewish religious streams. They collaborate with all Jewish organizations in the city, including the Jewish Agency, JDC, Hillel, and others.




84. JAFARI (Jewish safari) is a private company that creates Jewish cultural and educational programs for the Kyiv Jewish population. Known for its mobile Jewish-theme scavenger hunts, its leaders, Masha Pushkova and Marina Lysak, stated that business has leveled off in that domain and in several other areas, a consequence of contemporary financial difficulties among its primary client base.


However, interest has increased in their private Hebrew ulpans, an upsurge that they attribute to growing interest in emigration and aliyah to Israel. They now manage four ulpan groups, each meeting twice weekly and each enrolling between five and ten people. The demand is there for additional ulpan sections, the two women said, but they cannot accomodate more students in the space that is available to them. They rent a room in the Sholom Aleichem Museum, they continued, which holds a maximum of 15 to 20 people in less than ideal conditions. They would like to have their own space in the center of the city, but that is finan-cially unrealistic at this time.


Masha Pushkova, left, works in a variety of Jewish and Hebrew cultural endeav-ors. Marina Lysak, right, is an invest-ment manager whose involvement in JAFARI is part-time.

Photo: the writer.


Most of their ulpan students, continued Ms. Pushkova and Ms. Lysak, work in regular jobs during the day and come for lessons after work. They use an "irreverent" approach to teaching Hebrew, they said, employing informal discussion and music. Some students have already completed basic JAFI ulpans, stated the two women, but others are rank beginners. They also offer "studio" ulpan classes for children, which have attracted an adult following as well.


They have a strong relationship with the Jewish Agency, they said, often creating unique programs for JAFI camp evenings and special days. One of the favorite activities, commented the two women, is a mini-Limmud event in which campers are able to select from among several classes/activities available to them.


[133] Mr. Akselrud is executive director of Hillel in Ukraine and of United Jewish Community of Ukraine. See pages 113-114 and 139-140.

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