Russian-Speaking Jews

Overview 

We bring first and second-generation Russian-speaking Jews together through community engagement opportunities, philanthropic ventures, and social networking.

All our programs, from educational to cultural events and grant distribution, are designed to foster deeper connections to Jewish life and to one another. Russian-Speaking Jews (RSJ) furthers the mission of the Federation’s vision of a vibrant, connected, and enduring Jewish community while embracing our shared Russian heritage by:

  • Engaging a new cadre of Russian-speaking Jewish leaders
  • Providing a diverse array of Bay Area opportunities to participate in Jewish, Russian, and Israeli cultural programs and events
  • Strengthening our ties to Israel through education and advocacy

Our goals are to

  • Provide innovative young adult engagement and support grassroots initiatives within the community
  • Expand participants’ knowledge of Jewish heritage and connection to Jewish community
  • Develop participants’ leadership skills
  • Develop leaders who will take ownership of planning RSJ programming in the Bay Area
  • Train participants to fundraise in order to build more sustainable programming
  • Promote and develop participants’ creative expression
  • Collaborate with partner agencies to lay the groundwork for local organizations to engage the RSJ community more effectively

To learn more, visit our FAQs page.

Our story

We grew up in the former Soviet Union. For many of us, that meant separation from our Jewish history, our Jewish culture, our Jewish family, and our Jewish selves. Yes, we were Jews, but any expression of that fact, for the most part, could be made only in hushed tones, in private, or not at all.

But, miraculously, we made it here. And the Federation had a lot to do with that miracle. We have been beneficiaries of Federation-supported agencies, including the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and Jewish Family and Children’s Services. We have found job training and employment through Jewish Vocational Service, made lasting friendships at the Jewish Community Centers, received interest-free loans at Hebrew Free Loan, and found help for our parents at the Jewish Home. And, today, with more than 50,000 Russian-speaking Jews thriving in the Bay Area, our community is coming together and giving back.

We do so not only because of our tradition of tikkun olam (repairing the world), but so that we can be fully part of what ought to have been our birthright: al tifrosh min hatzibur (to not be distanced from our community). And also, of course, to eat, drink and have fun.

Today, as Russians, Jews, Americans and Bay Area residents, we come together to give, to learn, to laugh, to share, and to do our part in the Federation’s larger mission to build a strong, vibrant, connected, and enduring Jewish community that is a force for good locally, in Israel, and around the world.

Programs 

We bring people together for meaningful Jewish cultural events and philanthropic ventures that foster social and professional networking and learning. More than 600 participants receive emails and attend events, and a core leadership group collaborates to create innovative programming to bring their peers together.

Our diverse programming appeals to a variety of people and includes various topics:

  • Leadership development
  • Families with children
  • Holiday celebrations
  • Outdoor activities and outtings
  • Networking for Russian-speaking Jewish professionals working in the Jewish community
  • Teen engagement

Russian Jewish Community Impact Grants Initiative (IGI)

The Russian Jewish community has structured a mini-grant program to nurture and expand engagement of the Russian-speaking Jewish community in Jewish life. Exemplary organizations were selected by a delegation of Bay Area Russian Jewish community leaders, formed through the IGI, the Federation’s pioneering prototype for community-engaged grantmaking.

Hike and Learn

Russian-speaking Jews from around the Bay participate in day hikes, city hikes, and potlucks that give them an opportunity to learn about Judaism and congregate as a community in an informal, fun atmosphere. Hike and Learn events are organized with the assistance of Rabbi Ilana Baird, who helped form a collaboration with the Silicon Valley Community Federation, and widened access to Federation-unaffiliated locals, encouraging broader participation in events.

Passover in the Desert

For too many of us, Passover has become not much more than a slightly modified family dinner with a 10-minute seder wedged between gefilte fish and matzo ball soup. And, for many members of our Russian Jewish community, the holiday is hardly recognized at all. But RSJ set out to change that through its wildly successful Passover in the Desert, now entering its sixth year.

Set over four days and three nights in the picturesque Panoche Hills of western Fresno County, Passover in the Desert brings Jews of every stripe together to convene with the natural world, connect with one another, recreate our Exodus, and make Passover more than just a meal.

The growth of this event has been exponential; beginning with not more than a handful of attendees in its first year, it has exploded to nearly 150 participants of all ages and levels of religious observance. 

Arts and History Exhibits

Hosted at the Federation, wine and cheese receptions are held for exhibit openings that attract both Russian-speaking Jews and the general public. Many of the images presented showcase stories or capture images of Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union living in the U.S. 

MishMash Project

Mishmash is an independent group of Russian-speaking Jewish young adults in the Bay Area who come together for Shabbats, holiday celebrations, trips overseas, and more in order to stay connected to their Jewish roots. This community is both local and connected to a global Jewish community, and embraces its identity and supports one another.

 

Leadership 

Steering Committee:

The Steering Committee serves as the central leadership committee to guide all activities, programming and training to help develop emerging Jewish leaders. The committee meets monthly to liaise with grantee partners, conduct community outreach, fundraise, and discuss programming. The committee formulates a framework and charter that will ensure that the program adheres to the best practices and highest standards. The goal is to take RSJ to the next level of community service, philanthropy, and vision by building a cohort of leaders that will inspire and engage their peers – evolving into a functional leadership board.

Membership 

In the Bay Area’s cradle of innovation, we’re working on kindling fresh sparks of community-building and connection among Russian immigrants to Jewish culture and tradition.

We are expanding our team of volunteers to bring even more great organizations, programs, and events to our diverse community.

Want to get involved with the Russian Jewish community and help it flourish?
Have an idea for a single or recurring project and want to make it a reality?
Aspire to connect Russian Jewish young adults to Jewish heritage, culture, religion, and broader community?
Want to get involved but not sure how?
If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, now is your chance to make a real difference. 

Russian Jewish Community Impact Grants Initiative (IGI)

The Russian Jewish community has structured this mini-grant program to nurture and expand engagement of the Russian-speaking Jewish community in Jewish life. We are looking to support applicants who aim to grow the capacity of an existing organization, an existing project, or an entirely new effort that addresses the mission and goals of this grant opportunity.  

Send an email to Irina Klay and become one of the people who actually make things happen in the Jewish world.

Media 

Snapshots of Russian-Speaking Jews community events and networking opportunities.

Jewoodles Exhibit

Passover in the Desert

Speak Memory Exhibit

Contact Us 

 

Contact Us

Irina Klay
Russian-Speaking Jews Program Manager
415.512.6236