05/11/2017

Young Leaders Help Rebuild St. Petersburg

Tags: Federation, Overseas, Leadership

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Imagine learning you are Jewish – at age 30. What would you do?

In St. Petersburg Russia, Cleveland’s sister city, hundreds of Jews are rediscovering their heritage and rebuilding the Jewish community. Twenty years ago, our Cleveland Jewish community entered into a strategic partnership with the city of St. Petersburg to help renew Jewish life where Judaism was forbidden during 70 years of Communist rule. One key strategy was to invest in the next generation of Jewish leaders. The Lehava Leadership Program was created for young Jewish adults in St. Petersburg to become more involved in their local Jewish community.

Federation’s Overseas Connections Committee (OCC) recently hosted a delegation of 24 Lehava members from St. Petersburg, Cleveland’s sister city. “It's always nice to host these young professionals because we have a lot to learn from them,” said Ben Becker, Co-Chair of OCC’s Lehava Workgroup Committee. “They are rebuilding the Jewish community in St. Petersburg, but also creating connections in the global Jewish community.”

Only recently, Lehava member Timofey Sherbakov found out he was Jewish; coming to Cleveland and collaborating with the young professionals of Federation’s Young Leadership Division (YLD) has inspired him to become more invested in the St. Petersburg Jewish community. “Cleveland is one of the most successful Jewish communities in the world,” said Sherbakov. “This experience and guidance has inspired us to develop our community and make it a better place.

Alex Davis joined the Lehava Workgroup Committee after experiencing first-hand the impact the young leaders of Lehava have had on St. Petersburg, while she was volunteering at summer camp. “It was amazing to see how Jews, my age, came together as a community; it’s really remarkable how much we had in common, even though we live half-way across the world,” Davis said. “I hope they know they have family here and they always have a place to stay when they come to America.”

“We’re proud to have helped build Jewish institutions and create a vibrant Jewish community with the aim of establishing self-sufficiency so that Jewish life lives on,” said Ilanit Gerblich Kalir, Managing Director of International Operations at the Federation. “We’re empowering young people to continue their impressive feat of Jewish renewal and believe that Lehava will illuminate the path forward for the next generation.”

For more information on Lehava, Federation’s partnership with St. Petersburg, Russia, contact Ilanit Gerblich Kalir at ikalir@jcfcleve.org or 216-593-2815.


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