The Pesach Project - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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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 2019 Fellows

Yonatan ArnonYonatan Arnon is a first-year rabbinical student. Born in Jerusalem, Yonatan was brought up in Philadelphia, Kathmandu and Istanbul. He has worked to bring together communities integrating Jewish experience, theater and dance since discovering his passion in high school. He spent years working with the Jewish community in Israel and the Diaspora. Yonatan holds a B.A in Jewish philosophy and theater from Hebrew University and served as a representative to the art faculty in the student governing board. Yonatan attended a group facilitation training specializing in Jewish and Israeli identity. He worked as a group facilitator for several NPO’S in Israel dealing with Jewish and Israeli challenges, character of the state and multiculturalism.  Yonatan served as the Jewish Agency Israel fellow to Columbia/Barnard Hillel between 2013-2016. Today, Yonatan holds an MBA from the Morton Mandel Social Leadership Program from Ben Gurion University, and is an Experiential Educator, Movement Instructor and Founder of Artistic Shabbat Experiences in Ber Sh’eva.

Anna CalamaroAnna Calamaro is a first-year rabbinical student. She was born and raised in Wilmette, Illinois, a northeast suburb of Chicago. Anna received her BA from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 2014, where she was the first undergraduate to major in Jewish Studies. Upon graduation, she began working for Metro Chicago Hillel as an Engagement Associate at the University of Illinois at Chicago, inspiring college students to further explore their Jewish identities. After her first year, she was promoted to Director of Jewish Life of Loyola University, where she had the opportunity to be part of their campus ministry department and work with colleagues in interfaith contexts on a daily basis. After two years, she became the Director of Engagement for all 12+ campuses of Metro Chicago Hillel, overseeing Jewish outreach across the entire city. Over the course of her time working for Hillel, Anna completed her Masters in Jewish Education with a Certificate in Jewish Experiential Education from Hebrew College in June 2018. In addition, she has interned at conservative and reform congregations, Jewish nursing homes, JCCs, and created many experiential workshops, Shabbatons, and text studies for various Jewish organizations. This year in Israel marks Anna’s 8th visit, as she previously led Birthright and Maccabee Task Force trips and spent a summer studying Jewish mysticism at Hebrew University. In her free time, Anna enjoys singing and playing guitar, watching documentaries, and going on self-created food tours with her husband, Yaakov, and their dog, Kafka.

 Kalix JacobsonKalix Jacobson  is a first-year Cantorial student and a Weitzman-JDC Fellow. Prior to their enrollment at HUC-JIR, they attended Maryville University in St. Louis and obtained a Bachelors in Business in the fall of 2017. Kalix is a music educator and professional songwriter, teaching in both secular and religious spaces for nearly seven years. They also are a cantorial soloist, having served as a featured musician and soloist in many congregations and colleges around the Midwest. Kalix also has a passion for social justice and non-profit work, which is why they are so thrilled to be a Fellow.



Sammy KanterSammy Kanter is a first-year rabbinical student and a Weitzman-JDC Fellow. Prior to his studies, Sammy was the Director of the Selma and Lawrence Ruben Center for 20s and 30s and Out at the J Programs at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan. Before that role, he brought to life the Becker Center for Networking and Mentoring at the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, a groundbreaking initiative to reexamine how Jewish Cincinnati attracts, connects, and engages young adults. He was in the inaugural class of both Birthright Israel Fellows and Cincinnati’s Jewish Non-Profit Leadership Institute, has led six Birthright trips, and is a Facilitation Fellow with the JCPA’s Resetting the Table.  Sammy holds a B.S. in Journalism from the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.


Sydney LazarSydney Rose Lazar is a first-year cantorial student headed to the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music in New York. Prior to beginning her cantorial studies, Sydney attended The Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford, where she earned a Bachelor of Music with honors, graduating summa cum laude with a major in Classical Vocal Performance and a minor in Music History. After college, Sydney was thrilled to return to her native New York and gain professional experience in two unique synagogue communities: serving as the cantorial soloist, religious school teacher, and B’nai Mitzvah tutor at West End Temple in Rockaway Park, and the Membership Associate at Temple Emanu-El in New York City, where she gained significant insight into the operational components of running a large synagogue. A proud member of the DFSSM Cantorial Class of 2023, Sydney is also a Birthright Israel Fellow with the iCenter, and is honored to have been selected as a Weitzman-JDC Fellow for Global Jewish Leadership.