FSU celebrates a momentous Pesach
FSU Pesach celebrations brought flavor to more people than ever, marking a decade of successful cooperation with the HUC Pesach project that brings HUC students to the FSU to conduct communal Sedarim and assist our local staff. The entire FSU Reform movement was mobilized long before the holiday, preparing for their arrival and ensuring an enjoyable and meaningful stay. This year 12 HUC students travelled to the FSU to help Progressive Jews celebrate Pesach. The success of this project is the result of the incredible work done by our FSU rabbis, professional staff, volunteers, youth and community leaders; the HUC students led by rabbinic student Jessie Wainer and cantorial student Vladimir Lapin; and Debbie Pulik, Project Development of the FSU department who led the WUPJ component of the project from Jerusalem. Once again everyone raised the Reform flag to great heights this year.Pesach in the FSU is without a doubt the main community holiday. In addition to the religious and traditional significance, Pesach is also an extremely important holiday for FSU Jewry as it speaks about freedom from slavery, human rights and development of independent thinking – all the issues that were denied our people for so many years.
Seder in Kiev
The preparations this year resulted in unprecedented successes in the conducting of the Sedarim themselves that enabled nearly 5500 people from all over the FSU to come together and celebrate the holiday. Pesach this year was definitely family focused, as can be seen in the photos and in the following quotes from two of our FSU-Netzer members:
My name is Albert and I am a new member of Netzer as of the end of February. I try and go to every event. Netzer has become my second home. This year I participated in my first Seder, not as a leader but as a member of the congregation. I really liked the Seder. We were told about the different traditions and given the opportunity to participate in customs such as finding the "Afikoman". My friends and I were successful in finding it and were given a wonderful gift.
My name is Svetlana Birich. I have been a member of Netzer since 2010. For 2 years I have gone to Netzer summer camps, was a part of the 2012 Purimshpiel and went to a seminar that trained youth to lead Sedarim. Once I was just a participant, this year I was one of the leaders of the Seder led by Netzer. I enjoyed it so much!
Seder plate in St. Petersburg
Following is a review of the Sedarim and events that took place around the FSU:
Over 1600 people attended Sedarim throughout Russia. 600 people attended the different Sedarim in Moscow’s Reform communities and other Jewish organizations, led by Rabbi Alexander Lyskovoy, Rabbi Leonid Bimbat, Program Director Evgenia Rosenthal, Head of Moscow office Valery Sheinin, Administrator Ekaterina Solodkaya, Netzer Coordinator for Russia Ksenia Serebrenia, Cantors Dmitriy Karpenko and Denis Rubin. Sedarim were held at the Moscow Center for Progressive Judaism congregation Le Dor va Dor, with special guest Simon Vine from Alfa Bank, his family and colleagues, who stated that the Seder was most enjoyable and well organized. Other Sedarim in Moscow took place at Severnaya Congregation, Hineni congregation, the Choral Synagogue, and the MEOD community center who held Sedarim for special needs children, hearing impaired people and WWII veterans and survivors.
In St. Petersburg, Rabbi Helena Rubinstein, with the assistance of Alla Mitelman, Director of Programs, conducted several Sedarim throughout the week of Pesach, for a total of 130 participants. These included a special Shabbat event at the Shatil children's center and the community Seder with honored guests Israel Consul General, Mr. Edward Shapira, Former First Secretary of the Embassy of Israel Mr. Boleslaw Yatvetsky, and members of Jewish organizations.
Additional Sedarim were held in other cities throughout Russia - Tver, Krasnodar, Khabarovsk, Tambov, and Orel, as well as in Lipetsk, Tyumen, Chelyabinsk, with HUC students Samantha Shabman and Lindsey Rothschild who assisted in conducting two Sedarim for 110 participants.
Netzer Representatives at Seder Pesach in Moscow
In Belarus, 1990 participants took part in various Pesach activities. In Minsk, Belarus, in addition to the 8th International Cantorial concert (see separatearticle), 1220 participants took part in Sedarim, lectures, classes, festivals and children activities led by Rabbi Grisha Abramovich, Executive Director, Michael Kemerov, Educational Coordinator, Irina Belskaia, Netzer Coordinator Darya Subotka, Simcha Chair Efim Zhivov and other staff members at the congregations. In addition, HUC students assisted in Sedarim in Vitebsk, Mogilev, Baranovichi and Bobruisk. Some of these Sedarim were held specifically for children and young adults. Sedarim were also held in Brest, "Hatikvah" in Gomel, "Menorah" in Grodno and "Shalom" in Lida.
Over 1800 people participated in Sedarim conducted in 17 Progressive congregations throughout the Ukraine. Six HUC students assisted in leadingSedarim in 5 cities in the Ukraine.
Pesach Seder in Minsk
In Kiev, Sedarim were led by Rabbi Alex Dukhovny, assisted by Executive Director Alex Haydar, Education Coordinator Alexandra Haydar, Financial Director Dmitry Levin and Netzer Coordinator Denis Burmistrov. The Hatikvah Congregation organized a Pesach Seder for 144 participants (the largest in Ukraine) at a local restaurant. This was made possible through the Irving and Cecelia Appelbaum Foundation which made a generous donation suggested by Cecelia Appelbaum of La Jolla, California, to honor the work of her grandson, Jeremy Borovitz who is serving in the Peace Corps in the Ukraine. Jeremy took part and conducted part of the Seder in Russian. The Appelbaum Foundation grant enabled all congregation members to take part in the Pesach Seder. Other guests included leaders of Jewish organizations and First Secretary of the Embassy of Israel.
Additional Sedarim were held in Odessa by community worker Vladimir Torchinsky and the newly appointed Chair, Victor Zonis, and assisted by HUC students Michael Danziger, Benjamin Ross and Liz Bennett. Sedarim were also held in Lutsk, and Siva Fainerman, para-rabbi of Lviv Jewish Progressive congregation led seven Sedarim.
Communal Kiddush in Odessa
In Simferopol, Crimea, 80 people gathered in the prayer hall of the religious community of Progressive Judaism, together with Rabbi Mikhail Kapustin and HUC Students. As one participant told us, “we were so engrossed in the Sederthat, while going on for several hours, it seemed to be over in mere minutes”.
Hebrew Union College students with Rabbi Mikhail Kapustin, in the Simferopol synagogue prayer hall during the holiday
In addition to Simferopol, the HUC students assisted with Pesach celebrations in Feodosiya and Yevpatoria.
Seder in Simferopol
Additional photos can be seen here:
Pesach Celebrations in FSU
Pesach Celebrations 5772 in Moscow
Pesach Celebrations 5772 in St. Petersburg: