The Russian Connection

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Women from Cleveland and St. Petersburg Meet in Israel in an Unprecendented Partnership

This October, 35 women from St. Petersburg, Russia, and 10 Russian-American women from Cleveland, Ohio, will travel together to Israel with the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, in collaboration with the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s St. Petersburg Partnership. The Russian-American women represent those from St. Petersburg who have immigrated to Cleveland as well as women who have been involved in supporting the St. Petersburg Jewish community. Together, the 45 participants will explore their intertwined histories of religion, nationality, and womanhood, as they explore the country of Israel.

The Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) was founded in 2009 by eight women from the Greater Washington area, and has quickly become a force in the Jewish world. Working with 126 partner organizations in 17 countries, the JWRP has, over the past six years, brought 6,500 Jewish mothers to Israel on a highly subsidized eight-day experience.

The partnership between the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and the Jewish community of St. Petersburg includes organizations such as Adain Lo, an educational Jewish organization in St. Petersburg. The relationship with deep cultural roots began in 1990, and has enabled groundbreaking capacity building trainings for the St. Petersburg Jewish community.

Lori Palatnik, founder of the JWRP, reflects on this partnership: “The first group of women who traveled with the JWRP to Israel from the former Soviet Union expressed intense relief at finally being able to connect to a spirituality that was stolen from them. We anticipate a very unique trip this October as Russian women will connect with their Russian-American sisters. It’s an experiment in cross-national sisterhood!”

Allison Schultz, a Madricha (leader) from Cleveland says: “I am so excited to be participating with the JWRP mission to Israel this October. This is a great opportunity to experience Israel, listen to inspiring world renowned speakers, and build long lasting, meaningful relationships with not only my Jewish sisters from Cleveland but also from St. Petersburg, Russia. My family emigrated from St. Petersburg, Russia 39 years ago and I'm looking forward to learning about the vibrant Jewish community that is growing there as a result of the dedication and hard work of these women and the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.” 

As the JWRP and the Jewish Federation of Cleveland bridge historical and international barriers by bringing these diverse women together, their focus remains on the impact the partnerships have on women. Elena Bogod from St. Petersburg reflects on participating in the first JWRP trip from her city and how it connected her with her roots: “When I come to Israel, I feel like I grow in my strength. Speaking to other Russian participants, each of them say they feel the same thing – that when they come to Israel from Russia, they feel like they're coming home, and when you come home, you feel stronger.”

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