Friday, December 29, 2006

Hanukkah Comes to an "Inspirational" Close with an Intergenerational Play

Folks in the Minsk Jewish campus can't stop talking about “Inspiration,” the Hanukkah play put together by professionals and clients of Hesed, Raduga, and The Jewish Family Outreach Service. When Lena, the director of Raduga, the club for young Jews with disabilities, proposed creating a Hanukkah play to be performed by mentally disabled youth and elderly individuals with physical illnesses, people thought she was reaching for the impossible. But after 4 months of daily tireless rehearsals with psychologists, counselors, and professional stage managers, Hesed, Raduga, and JFOS proved everyone wrong.

Actors old and young worked together throughout the entire theatrical process, from backstage management, to on–stage dialogue. Volunteers from Hesed remained on–call, assisting the young disabled to put on their costumes and practice their lines. What resulted was a Jewish artistic masterpiece which wowed the 100–strong audience.
Among those attending the performance was the director of Hesed from Bobruysk. The Minsk Jewish community has a reputation for pioneering innovative programming, and organization directors from all–over Belarus were curious to see the outcome of such an experiment. After the play, the Bobruysk Hesed director commented that now that she knows such a production is possible, she hopes to replicate it in her community.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Eritchka Is Officially a Resident of Belarus!

To celebrate, Eritchka buys dishes for her new apartment. Nothing says I’m-an-American-with-a-multiple-entry-visa-living-in-Minsk like a set of 6 glasses with the Russian Mountain Dew logo!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I Don't Think You're Ready For THIS Jelly!

Thanks to Kseniya Sosnovskaya, the only grant-writer in Belarus and the Queen of the Resource Center of the Minsk Jewish Campus, the Jews of Belarus were able to eat sufganiyot, or jelly donuts, this Hanukkah. Using her exceptional fact-finding skills, Kseniya honed in on the only store in Minsk which kept a "shpritz," or injector, in stock. It was a true wild-goose chase at first, but 5 stores, 15 lines, and 4 hours later, Eritchka and Kseniya left the department store with shpritz in hand.

Although she had never made even one sufganiya before, Eritchka could not say no to her Israeli boss when he requested her to make sufganiyot for the 40 JDC Staff members attending the JDC Minsk Hanukkah party. On Hanukkah, Belarusian Jews eat donuts called poinchiki, which is simply a plain, jellyless donut, unheard of to both American and Israeli Jews.

Now, Hanukkah is all about extending limited resources. Just as the little bit of oil lasted 8 full days, so too this Hanukkah in Minsk did 2 such miracles occur: 1) Kseniya found a shpritz in Minsk and 2) One piece of dough inexplicably became 56 sufganiyot. Another supernatural wonder of this Hanukkah was that all 56 miraculously disappeared by the end of the party. Only the Holy One, Blessed Be He, and possibly Yoni Leifer can understand how or why.


Eritchka Does Heavy Lifting This Hanukkah

After three long months of waiting and a journey across thousands of miles, the cargo train carrying hundreds of boxes labeled “JDC” has finally arrived to the unloading dock outside Minsk. These boxes, containing fleece sweatshirts from Barry and Merle Ginsburg, departed from China and crossed the Asian continent to deliver cozy fleece sweatshirts to Jewish children in the midst of the Belarusian winter.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

How Does YOUR Kasha Grow?

With silver bells and cockleshells
And pretty maids all in a row?

After one week without refrigeration, this kasha had not one silver bell,
but blue spots with a stinky smell.
And wretch it made me want to go.
Try this at home to see what YOUR kasha can grow!

Monday, December 4, 2006

This Week: Eritchka Goes Russian Red

In honor of this year’s Ofek Jewish Book Festival, Hillel and the JCC teamed up to create the first-ever “Literary Casino.” The makeshift casino, set up in the large hall in the Minsk Jewish Community Campus, featured gambling, bowling, and a disco Tec. Each activity integrated Jewish literary themes. For example, before a player could get her points in a game of darts, she would have to answer a question such as, “name the author of the book, Der Judenstaat,” or, “Who invented the character Gimple the Fool?”

To create a real atmosphere of competition, players had to gamble with “Ofek Money.” The unlucky gamblers could buy only a cup of juice with their Ofek dollars. The lucky ones, however, had the photo opportunity of a lifetime—to take a picture with the most famous piece of Jewish literature of all time, the 10 Commandments, held by the modern Belarusian Moses. Adorned in red fabric and wearing a red wig and a sparkling gold hat, Eritchka looked like a Moses who would star in a Jewish “La Cage aux Folles.”

Nonetheless, participants in the casino night lined up to take pictures with this strange-looking character holding a Russian version of the Tablets. By the end of the night, Eritchka, acting in the benevolent way of God’s favorite prophet, even took pictures with those who had played away all of their money.

This was the 10th annual Ofek Literary Festival. The Festival was a collaborative event organized by the JCC, the Union of Belarusian Jewish Communities, Israel Cultural Center, and the Joint Distribution Committee.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

A Rabbi, a Priest, and a Mufti Walked Into Campus...

It may sound like the opening of an ethnic joke, but for the first time in Belarusian history, an inter-religious meeting was held to discuss issues of religious persecution. Due to the recent anti-semitic vandalism of the Yama Holocaust Memorial, The Union of Belarusian Jewish Communities invited leaders of various religious groups to the Jewish Campus in Minsk to discuss what could be done about anti-religious acts. This meeting was not only the first of its kind at the Jewish campus, but the first of its kind in the Republic. Among those present at the roundtable were Catholic Cleric Vladislav Zavalnuk, Russian Orthodox Father Fedor Povney, and Abu-Bakr Shabanovich, the Mufti of Belarus.

Leonid Levin mediated the discussion and invited each religious representative to share his thoughts. Each leader agreed on the importance of promoting religious tolerance to young Belarusians, and was eager to collaborate. Participants in the roundtable agreed that it was important for the different religions to come together as a regular committee. Through this committee, they will keep one another updated on religious issues and collaborate in creating programs and seminars promoting tolerance.

Friday, December 1, 2006

The Award for Minsk's November Babushka Goes To...

The hottest meat-merchant at Komarovsky market! Check out how she wraps cow-intestine in fuschia to match the streak in her hair!