Ties that Bind

Russian-speaking American Jews visit the Baltics

The Baltic states are unique in that they strive to find their own balance between the European Union and their powerful neighbor, Russia; between the old traditions and a modern approach to the world; and between the understanding and reconciliation of its Holocaust past and a democratic future.

This was all reflected during the 10 day trip I took this fall with the Brandeis-Genesis Institute for Russian Jewry’s Leadership Program for Young Jewish Professionals working in the American Jewish communal world.

The former Soviet Union (FSU) offers many inspiring examples of re-emergent Jewish life. In many cities, people who were unaffiliated and knew little about Judaism some 30 years ago are now able to reconnect with their Judaism as they actively help rebuild thriving Jewish communities. In these new incubators of contemporary Jewish life, many families can now receive an affordable Jewish education and connect with their roots and common interests through exciting new grassroots organizations. Many of these growing organizations and schools are the direct recipients of support from the global Jewish community, including our Federation.

While travelling through all three Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia), my colleagues and I, professionals who work with Russian-speaking Jews in the United States, discussed what challenges and opportunities communal professionals are currently facing and may expect to face in the future. Many discussions took place regarding the state of the Jewish community in the FSU, and the relationship between different Jewish agencies and the community as a whole in the post-Cold War world.

Some of our conversations explored the roles and responsibilities of Jewish people in general, and the American Jewish community in particular, in supporting resurgent communities. And it is clear that we all have a substantive role. Our connection to fellow Jews in the FSU is deep and critical. May our work here in the Bay Area and in the FSU continue to flourish on all sides.

Irina, far left, with the Leadership Program for Young Jewish Professionals cohort

For more information on events and programs for Russian-speaking Jews in the Bay Area, visit our website or contact Irina Klay at 415.512.6236.


November 12, 2015