wo years ago, I took an untimely and unlikely turn off the path
of many young married couples. Just after my husband and I
bought our first piece of real estate in New York City, I decided
to move to the Former Soviet Union (FSU).
Formerly, as the Associate Director of National Women’s Phi-
lanthropy at United Jewish Communities (UJC), I often
accompanied donors on missions to help them understand how their
federation dollars were being put to work. I realized then that there
must be a better way to connect North American donors to overseas
Jewish communities. Missions, I thought, should be more than a
The idea to relocate east came while I was visiting Russia as
a participant in the Muehlstein Institute for Jewish Professional Lead-
ership (a joint certificate program of UJA-Federation of New York
and New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service). It was
my second formal visit in two years to the
and center for young Jews with physical and mental disabilities in
St. Petersburg. A little girl I met on my first trip remembered me and
we took another picture together after she updated me on her latest
accomplishments – she recently celebrated her
an award in a singing competition.
My desire to build more lasting relationships with the global
Jewish community became a reality in early 2007 when I was
awarded the Ralph I. Goldman Fellowship in International Jewish
Communal Service by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Com-
mittee (JDC). Designed to encourage interest in the field of
Jewish communal service, the fellowship is a yearlong
overseas work/study program in one or two of the over 60 countries
where JDC is active.
And so, while my husband stayed home to renovate our new
apartment, I moved abroad to spend a below freezing winter in Dne-
propetrovsk, Ukraine, home to some 60,000 Jews.
It’s not surprising to me now that the hospitality of eastern
Ukraine’s Jewish community embraced me as one of its own. Just be-
fore I left, I discovered that my great-grandparents were born in
Ekaterinoslav, now Dnepropetrovsk. My great-grandfather owned
furniture shops in the Ozerka and Troitsky bazaars, both in walking
distance of my new apartment. It seemed to me that at one time or
another, I was meant to live in this part of the world.
Ukraine to Ethiopia
Joy Sisisky, MJCS, MPA, ’00; Executive Director,
The Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York
| THE CHRONICLE
ALUMNI CHANGING THE WORLD
The unveiling service itself was very different from any other
that I had done. Present were members of the Sons of Confederate
Veterans, Daughters of the Confederacy, Civil War re-enactors, citizens
of Brookhaven, and members of the Mississippi Jewish community.
We were able to combine successfully elements of a marker dedica-
tion usually done by the Sons of Confederate Veterans with a Jewish
unveiling that included some of the words read at the original unveil-
ing in 1897.
All in all, being an itinerant rabbi has allowed me to be present
at amazing moments in the lives of individuals, of families, of con-
gregations, and of communities. I have driven further through the
South than I had ever considered doing and encountered people who
have treated me to the best of both southern and Jewish hospitality. I
have been blessed to work with this “congregation.”
Rabbi Marshal Klaven, C ’09, is taking over from Rabbi Appel, who after three years as
a circuit-riding rabbi is moving on to serve as Director of Rabbinic Services at KAM
Isaiah Israel Congregation in Chicago.
Rabbi Batsheva Appel at the helm of the MV David Solomon.
Rabbi Eric Wisnia, Jim Baker, Rabbi Batsheva Appel, and Mike
Webb at the dedication of memorials for Jewish Confederate soldiers.