This April, 42 rabbinical, cantorial, and education students from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) will travel to the Former Soviet Union (FSU) on a mission to provide a meaningful Passover celebration for thousands of underserved Jews. This program, now in its fifth year, is a partnership between HUC-JIR and the World Union for Progressive Judaism and provides programs and unique learning opportunities for the growing Reform Jewish communities in the Former Soviet Union. The World Union for Progressive Judaism, which unites and supports all Reform congregations world-wide, coordinates and oversees the trip.
The students will travel to over 40 communities throughout Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus to lead Passover seders and educational programs and bring much-needed Jewish resources to the communities.
The goals of the FSU Pesach Project are to:
As part of their preparation for this journey, the students are responsible for fund raising to cover the costs of $2000 per student (including travel expenses, educational materials, and program supplies for all community members, ranging from toddlers to senior citizens, and a gift to show support for each community visited by the students); arranging the logistics (including transportation and visas throughout the FSU); developing the skills to lead the seders and engage the FSU communities in Jewish educational programs; and learning about the history and culture of the FSU.
This significant project began 5 years ago. Stacey Nolish Blank, who helped develop the program with classmates as a first-year rabbinical student, says, "We felt it was important for future leaders of the Jewish people to feel ourselves part of a worldwide network of Reform Jews. I am overwhelmed by how the program has grown over the past five years. The students bring Judaism to corners of the world that are really hard to reach, bridging language and cultural gaps and, themselves, return with a greater appreciation of all the blessings of Jewish resources that we have in our communities."
This year, first-year rabbinical student Matt Cohen and his wife, Erin are participating in the FSU Project. "I am really looking forward to this special experience. It is a joy and an honor to pass on the traditions of Passover to our fellow Jews in the FSU," says Matt.
Support for this noteworthy endeavor can be made through tax-deductible donations.
Please send your check payable to HUC-JIR (with FSU Pesach Project marked on the memo line) to:
Attn: Diane Bongard
3101 Clifton Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45220