Monday, September 24, 2007

Italy is HERE!

That’s what a dozen signs in front of proud displays of Kellogs cereal told customers in Preston Supermarket’s Bogdanovich Street branch. A recent shipment of “Italian” cereals such as varieties of Special K, All Bran, Frosted Flakes, Corn Flakes is the first of its kind in the Republic of Belarus and is certainly making waves in certain (very limited) circles. Each box is priced at approximately 13,500 Belarusian Rubles (7 USD) and is worth every Kopek if you’re a resident of Belarus who appreciates good cereal and is sick of buying Russian cereals such as Cosmo-Stars and Snow Flakes, which simultaneously taste kosher-for-Passover and look like cigarette ashes. Thanks to this latest shipment of Italian delicacies, Eritchka’s kitchen was filled with the melodious sounds of Pif Paf Pof (Eng. trans: Snap, Crackle, Pop) for the first time since her arrival to Belarus.

So if you’re an Italian living in Belarus and you’re missing the taste of home, drop by Preston Market and pick up a Kellogs box, because like the sign says, “Italy is HERE!” Before you rush to the check out line with your goods, be sure to check out the fresh home-made Polish-import pastas just across from the cereal section.

Gig at the Fall Festival

Eritchka has her first clarinet gig with Viktor Maslov, darbuka, and Ilya Bassin, trumpet. Together they play a funked up Hava Nagila at the Minsk Jewish Campus's annual Autumn Holiday Festival which always falls just before Sukkot.

Memorial Unveiled in Slutsk Brings in Somber New Year

During Rosh Hashana this year, an unlikely community of only 100 Jews celebrated not only the beginning of a new year, but also their heroism of years past. A long-awaited memorial marking the location of the Slutsk Ghetto and its uprising was finally unveiled the first Sunday of year 5768.

The monument, located near the center of town, is just across the street from the original entrance to the Ghetto itself.

“It is very significant that there is such a sizeable memorial near the center, because here people will actually see it,” explained Yaakov Bassin, head of Belarus’s Progressive Jewish communities and a strong voice against anti-semitism in the Former Soviet Union.

And sizeable it is. The memorial ground covers a large segment of a Slutsk city-street. It is surrounded by an unusual gate-like structure made of black wood in an irregular arrangement, giving the observer a feeling of imprisonment in a labyrinth. There are columns of stones shoved in various corners of the gates to symbolize residents of the ghetto being cornered and victimized. These faceless formless stones illustrate how targets of Nazi cruelty were dehumanized by their oppressors.

"The story of the Slutsk ghetto is probably one of the most terrifying in all of Belarus," explained Raisa Tychkina, the Chairman of the local Jewish community. "Ghetto prisoners were burned alive in their own homes and those who tried to run away were shot to death. Only several persons managed to survive these events," she said (

The stones which mark the memorial’s purpose are written in Belarusian, and label the place in honor of the people of the Ghetto. Thanks to the financial assistance of Jerry Weiner, a major force in the Minsk-Atlanta Jewish partnership, and others such as the Simon Mark Lazarus Foundation, and also due to the spiritual guidance of Slutsk Ghetto survivor, Fredrich Falevich, the memorial was erected, marking this previously virtually unknown historical locale. The elderly Slutsk community has finally achieved a long-anticipated victory of building their memorial in the hopes that passersby will now pay tribute to a nearly-lost Jewish community which once comprised approximately 80% of Slutsk’s pre-war population.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Aliyah and Erica: Leading Jewish Belarus to Glory!

The count is officially in: TWO Americans are currently residing in Minsk! Watch out Kazakhs, cause there’s a new national minority group in town! This new record-breaking stat doesn’t just mean more recitations of “beans beans the musical fruit” and other American literary classics, because these two with their amazing yiddisher khokhma are taking Jewish Belarus by storm.

Above photo: Watch as Hillel students ride Eritchka’s and Aliyitchka’s coattails to shtetl-fabulous glory. Just remember: don’t drink and ride!

Ktiva Ve'Khatima Tova: May you be written in The Good Blog for this year to come

Minsk “Jointniks” wish you and yours a Happy New Year! Even if you don’t follow the integrated lunar-solar calendar of the chosen people, take this opportunity to do some heart-searching and make some resolutions for the coming year. And don’t forget to eat as many sweets as possible, because it will unquestionably clinch you a candy-coated year!

Photo: Jointnik Katia (far right) coquettishly eyes the mouthwatering apples and homemade forest honey at the JDC Minsk Rosh Hashana party while her neighbors are entranced in a lecture on the traditions and obligations observed on the Jewish New Year.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

August’s Best Babushka: Having a Ball

Lena Fruman is exercising her Jewish core with fitness balls in the newly renovated Barry and Merle Ginsburg Community Building gym in Vitebsk. This trendy fitness method is mostly yet unknown in Belarus, but these en vogue pensioners are spreading the rage, while firming their abs, with their total-body, low-impact conditioning. Vitebsk seniors aren’t the only ones flexing their muscles with chic workouts. Come to Minsk, where Hesed Rachamim’s golden-agers attend dance and pilates classes in the Minsk Jewish Campus. So for those optimum abs, buns, and thighs, it’s best to keep with the Jewish Belarusian Babushkas, who stay on the move with the latest fitness trends.