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The Pesach Project

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Participants at a kindergarten in Minsk

Participants at a kindergarten in Minsk

Every Pesach, in partnership with the the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) sends rabbinical, cantorial, and education students on a service trip to the Former Soviet Union.  Participants visit Jewish communities that were once under the realm of Soviet oppression and have since been able to create a revitalized Jewish identity within their communities. 

In pairs or small groups, participants - joined with a translator - embark into a country and culture they've yet to experience. As they make their way through Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, students will have the opportunity to impact and learn from these communities.  Participants will lead Pesach seders and educational programs while experiencing Jewish life and Jewish peoplehood in the Former Soviet Union.  As future leaders of Reform Judaism, it is our students' responsibility to understanding the Progressive Jewish world outside of their own communities.

The following Year-In-Israel students participated in the 2018 Pesach Project: Madeline Anderson, Ashley Barrett, Michelle Blumenthal (JDC Fellow), Tammy Cohen, Madeline Cooper, Rebecca Diamond (JDC Fellow), Andy Granowitz, Rebecca Hecht (JDC Fellow), Dominique Lellek, Erin Levine, Jenna Mark, Alex Morrison, Jason Morrison, Sam Rosen (JDC Fellow), Rachel Rothstein, Tzvia Rubens, Eliza Scheffler, Avi Steindel (JDC Fellow), and Ariel Zitney. They will visit 21 individual communities in Moscow, Russia; Minsk, Belarus; and Kiev, Kharkov, Lviv, and Odessa, Ukraine.

Support HUC-JIR's Pesach Project

For this trip to become a reality, our students must raise funds to cover flights and transportation, lodging, translators, and programming materials. For every donation, a small portion will go directly to serving the needs of progressive Jewish communities in the FSU. In a record-breaking year, we hope to donate to over 20(!) communities, with your help. We deeply appreciate the support of our community at large to keep this amazing program going for many years to come. Please donate today!

Partnership with JDC Entwine 

Participants praying in one of the last remaining wooden synagogues in the world in Zhezmir, Lithuania

Participants praying in one of the last remaining wooden synagogues in the world in Zhezmir, Lithuania

​JDC Entwine and HUC-JIR have established a first-ever graduate Fellowship in Global Jewish Leadership for rabbinical, cantorial and Jewish education students.  This unique initiative represents a new platform and model in the Jewish world, providing a growing cadre of up and coming Jewish leaders with significant expertise in global Jewish issues. 

This two-year fellowship will provide students the opportunity to develop a deep understanding of global Jewish issues; contribute their unique skills through tailored field placements in overseas communities; and enrich Jewish life in North America through delivering curriculum focused on global Jewish responsibility in synagogue settings and beyond.  Through the Fellowship’s integrated platform of in-class study, overseas service, and local field work in North American synagogue communities, Fellows will form a core force of young Jewish leaders equipped to bring a global perspective and value of Jewish mutual responsibility to their leadership in congregational settings, Hebrew schools, and beyond.

Meet Our 2018 Fellows

Michelle BlumenthalMichelle Blumenthal is pursuing her joint Master's in Jewish Education and Jewish Nonprofit Management. Michelle is a graduate of HUC-JIR's Certificate in Jewish Education Specializing in Adolescents and Emerging Adults. She comes to HUC-JIR after serving four years as the Director of Jewston, Houston Hillel’s community for Jewish 20-somethings. "I travelled to Greece and Bulgaria with JDC Entwine in 2015, and spent the last few years as a member of Houston's JDC Entwine Committee. I look forward to expanding my knowledge of JDC's impact within the Former Soviet Union and bridging the gap between our HUC-JIR community and these communities abroad. I am excited to serve as a temporary Jewish educator to these communities as I facilitate engaging and innovative Pesach programming."


Rebecca DiamondRebecca Diamond is a Year-In-Israel rabbinical student, going to the New York campus. She grew up in Ridgewood, NJ, and earned her B.A. in History at Muhlenberg College. Becca spent the last two years as the Program Director for the College of Charleston Hillel in South Carolina. “As an American Jew, I always saw the Jewish present situated in America and Israel, and the Jewish past in Europe. Working with the JDC has opened my eyes to the deep variety of experiences of Jews worldwide, and how Judaism truly is global in both past and present. I hope to create meaningful, lasting relationships with communities in the Former Soviet Union, and to connect them with Jewish communities in the USA in order to forge a stronger, more diverse Jewish world."


Rebecca HechtRebecca Hecht is a Year-In-Israel rabbinical student bound for the New York campus. She studied French Literature and Chinese History at Stanford University, where she received both her B.A. and M.A., and directed Challah for Hunger for two years. She lived in China and Vietnam as a child and has always been eager to understand different cultures, languages, and communities. "As a JDC fellow and participant in the 2018 Pesach Project, I am excited to learn about historical and contemporary Judaism in the Former Soviet Union and continue to build bridges between our HUC-JIR community and the communities with which we will celebrate and learn."

Sam RosenSam Rosen is a Year-In-Israel cantorial student headed to the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music in New York. Sam grew up in Texas and studied Jewish History in New York City. "I found my way to the JDC Fellowship through an interest in world Jewry and strengthening Jewish communities around the globe. As a musician and Jewish historian, I look forward to experiencing and enhancing the Pesach experience for Jews in the Former Soviet Union. Specifically in Belarus, I hope to explore the birthplace of my paternal grandparents and different modes of being Jewish in the twenty-first century. I am grateful for the opportunity to be involved with such a special program. This unique trip has endured many years and continues to be relevant for the proliferation of progressive Judaism throughout the world."

Avi SteindelAvi Steindel is a Year-In-Israel rabbinical student headed to the Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles. Avi was born in Queens, NY, and grew up in Pittsburgh, PA. He is a graduate of the Solomon Schechter Day School, a USYer, and lifer at Camp Ramah in Canada.  "HUC-JIR’s Former Soviet Union Pesach Project is a critical opportunity to maintain, develop, and grow the connections that bind our Jewish world together.  Through this program, my fellow participants and I will provide a unique Progressive Jewish experience of Pesach for the Jews of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia.  Together we will connect our vibrant Jewish communities by sharing ideas, values, and customs."