A Visit to St. Petersburg, Our Sister City

Tags: Federation, Overseas, Partners

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Ben Becker, a Jewish Cleveland young leader, is meeting the people and seeing the programs we help support in our sister city of St. Petersburg, Russia. Read his blog below and learn more  about our overseas programs, by emailing overseas@jcfcleve.org or visiting us online.

As a member of the Federation’s Overseas Connections Committee (OCC) and the St. Petersburg Subcommittee, I’m visiting St. Petersburg, Russia to learn and to listen.

My passion is global Jewish community. We have so much to learn from what Jews are doing here and all around the world. By visiting here, we can develop relationships and build trust with St. Petersburg leaders. This enables us to do the work that we do and build the special partnership that we’ve had for more than 20 years.

Meeting with St. Petersburg's Young Leaders

Amos Levy, Ksenia, Me, Diana, and Ilanit at the St. Petersburg Moishe House.

Ksenia is from St. Petersburg and Diana is from Velikiye Luki, a small town 300 miles south. They met at a Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) camp in elementary school and have been friends ever since. Ksenia now lives in the Moishe House, running programs and providing a space for young Jews outside of the more established Jewish organizations like the Yesod community center or Hillel.

Moishe House programming has three goals:

  1. Educational Jewish learning
  2. Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) by volunteering to help the elderly, or animal welfare
  3. Social events live movie nights, trips to the theater, and other cultural events

Moishe House has a low barrier of entry and is open to all, which appeals to many young Jews who may prefer a more relaxed setting. There's no leadership requirement, no halakhic Jewish requirement. It’s “come as you are” Jewish programming.

Diana moved to St. Petersburg for school and was looking for something to get involved with and has been working with people who have special needs thru Adain Lo. Diana just got married to her camp sweetie one month ago. Ksenia just started a new job (unrelated to Moishe House) developing training programs for camp counselors.

"For me being a counselor in a Jewish camp is more than just planning activities or education. It's about making a Jewish identity for the next generation,” she said.

I see a ton of parallels between these two young women and myself and my community in Cleveland. I spent five years as camper at Camp Wise and spent three as staff working to help create amazing summers for campers. And, I also married my camp sweetie last July. Not only did I make my closest and deepest relationships through camp but I also developed a responsibility to pay it forward, just like these two young women are doing in St. Petersburg.

Purim story with sticker characters was developed to provide training for formal Jewish education across the Russian speaking world.

We met with camp counselors and staff, sharing what Jewish camp means to them. When I told them how I married my camp girlfriend, the girl holding the “home sweet home” sign was so excited. It was definitely a highlight.

Check out this hotel breakfast setup. This is less than ¼ of the spread.

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