A Special Weekend
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For me a good work week includes overseeing and advising the continued development of Jewish teen programs in Ukraine. But to see three of those programs in action; that is incredible. And to be able to show off our successes to the presidents of International BBYO, Michaela Brown and Mika Stein; that is special.
We started off the weekend in Kharkov. The presidents planned a short program for teenagers for Shabbat while the teenagers from Kharkov planned icebreakers and led kabbalat Shabbat. It was a great cultural exchange between the two groups and it made the teens in Kharkov feel closer to the teens of BBYO and the global Jewish community.
Next stop: Poltava. Immediately after Shabbat ended, we jumped onto a bus and arrived at Hesed Nefesh, which serves as the community center in Poltava. The presidents were welcomed with a Russian song called “Mayo Serdtze” – “My Heart.” The spirit felt during havdallah was palpable, as 20 Jews from around the world met in the small city of Poltava as a proud and united Jewish people. Here is the Instagram video of the song played to the BBYO presidents http://instagram.com/p/iO5IbPMVwr/
In the morning, we travelled from Poltava to Sumy to see the Sunday School, and different activities for children and teenagers. Then as we were in the synagogue the teenagers started breaking out into Israeli dances. When the teen program began and the presidents were able to present about BBYO and their experiences we all started to sing Hinei Ma Tov Uma Nayim Shevet Achim Gam Yachad – How Beautiful It Is As Brethren to Sit Together.
It really was a moment of pleasantness that must get replicated more and more often. As Lera, a 14 year-old from Sumy, stated so eloquently, “What you have in your hometowns, in the United States, as groups of Jewish teenagers, sounds really similar to what we have here in Sumy. It makes me proud to be a Jew.”
The physical distance between Jewish communities is of zero importance because wherever we are the song rings true: How beautiful it is for us to be together as the Jewish people.
This year, we are trying to connect Jewish teen clubs, like those in Kharkov, Poltava, and Sumy, throughout Ukraine to each other through seminars and retreats and to BBYO international. Every week, I will be showcasing a different community and their teen club. Help us strengthen the Jewish world by connecting Jewish teens to one another. Learn more by clicking on the following link.