Pictured from left to right: Tonya, trip translator; Sarah Fishman, HUC-JIR rabbinical student; Jaqui McCabe, HUC-JIR education student; Yael Rooks-Rapport, HUC-JIR rabbinical student; and Rabbi Misha Kapustin, leading Seder in Simferopol, in the Crimea region of the Ukraine.
In partnership with the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), HUC-JIR sent 16 students to facilitate educational programming and prayer experiences in Progressive communities in the Former Soviet Union (FSU) during Passover. The Pesach Project, now in its ninth year, strengthens the connections between HUC-JIR and Worldwide Progressive Judaism, enriches Progressive communities in the FSU, and provides participants with the once-in-a-lifetime experience of sharing Pesach with the unique Jewish communities in the FSU.
From April 17 to 22, 2011, the students visited 8 communities in three different countries: Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia. Participants included Laura Breznick, Ryan Daniels, Rayna Dushman, Miriam Farber, Andi Feldman, Sarah Fishman, Daniel Fliegel, Mike Harvey, Rachael Jacob, Ricky Kamil, Dave Malecki, Jaclyn McCabe, Steven Morris, Liz Piper-Goldberg, Yael Rooks-Rapport, and Marina Tecktiel. The students traveled to the following cities:
Click here to read more on the Former Soviet Union Pesach Project 2011 blog.
Rabbinical student Sarah Fishman, who traveled to the Ukraine, wrote, "Every year at our Passover seders we ask, 'How is this night different from all other nights?' The Four Questions held new meaning this year as I traveled from Israel to the Ukraine to celebrate Passover with three Jewish communities across the Crimean peninsula. It was my first Passover away from my family and our treasured traditions, my first Passover outside the United States, and my first time in the Former Soviet Union. While the differences seemed endless, they were incredibly worthwhile. My travels enhanced my understanding of the successes and challenges confronting Progressive Judaism in the FSU and enabled me to formulate meaningful connections with Jewish leaders and community members in the Ukraine. Passover teaches us to seek and question experiences that are new and different; through this process of seeking and questioning we learn, grow and enrich our lives." Click here to read more.
Cantorial student Rayna Dushman, who traveled to Belarus, wrote, "Why was this seder different from all other seders? This year I sang Dayeinu and ate matzah with communities in the country of Belarus, along with my travel partner, Miriam, an HUC-JIR rabbinical student. In a partnership between HUC-JIR and the World Union for Progressive Judaism, the Pesach Project brings HUC-JIR students all over the FSU each year to lead Passover seders. The goal? To help make their Passover experience even more meaningful and joyous, and for us to learn about their culture, the culture from which so many of our families come. Additionally, we strive to unite Progressive Jewish Communities around the world. We flew into Minsk, the city where my grandparents on my father’s side once lived. However, the city today looks nothing like it used to, given that the entire city was destroyed by the end of World War II. Miriam and I worked with a translator and led four Passover seders together. What an experience." Click here to read more.
Rabbinical student Miriam Farber, who traveled to Belarus, wrote, "Over the course of 4 days, I traveled to Minsk, Grodno, and Lida, leading seders in Progressive communities under the auspices of the FSU Pesach Project. My partner Rayna and I sang and danced to Yiddish songs (including a Yiddish rendition of Dayenu!) with the elderly Jews of Grodno, had a surprise motorboat ride in a lake in Lida, and watched a cantorial festival, featuring costumes slightly reminiscent of the Sound of Music. We spent hours talking with our translator, Ilona, about growing up Jewish in Belarus, school, boyfriends, languages, our own hopes for the future." Click here to read more.