Cornell University Hillel – Ukraine – August 2010

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Sweating to, with, and around, and in the vicinity of, the oldies

Rooms so hot they will fog your eyeballs and water so cold it will chill your spine. Last night we took a trip to the Russian baths! We arrived unsure of what to expect, and left 5 pounds of water weight lighter. We alternated between two steaming hot, it was like a sauna in there! (pun intended) rooms, and a bucket of ice water. We were all happy to have some time to sit and relax, although we thought we had sweat enough during the course of the day (ba dum chhh thanks guys I’m here all week!). Some members of the group even received personalized massages that pulverized the knots in their backs, legs, and necks. Thankfully, they all came out alive, only slightly bruised from the experience.

Our Ukrainian peers showed us the ropes inside the sauna. They even created their own cooling off mechanism that we all enjoyed: lying flat while a bucket of water is dumped on your back. Jill was informed she speaks too fast by the English speaking Ukrainian peer, she was unsurprised, shockingly she’s heard it before. To clean off, they showed us the merits of putting coffee on your skin as an exfoliate.

Some of the other Americans in our group were unprepared for the heat inside the sauna, and after a brief experience chose to play card games instead. Rummy, president, and old maid were enjoyed by the group as a pastime, while Ali is still holding out for go fish. In conclusion, finally, all in all, in reference to the paragraph above line 5 word 4 section 9, we had a really great time and can’t wait to see all of our favorite peers from the bath when not really shvitzy. We love yiddish. Peace, love, Jewish Girl Council (and Big Pete, the mascot), and THE Ukraine.

Zim and Bogatin out

P.S. Peter and Rabbi just had a running race, it was an embarrassing loss for the Rabbi, footage to follow, Peter is currently doing an inappropriate celebratory dance.

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Shabbat Shalom from Dnepropetrovsk

Shabbat Shalom

Thanks Mom and Dad for my Jewish education. Services yesterday were really awesome. We are in the middle of Ukraine and the small idiosyncrasies that always occur during temple services were in full swing—just as they would be in a synagogue on Long Island. The sermon began and everyone fell asleep, the yentas were on the move, and the shuffle to decide who received aliyahs was clear. The service itself was in Hebrew as well as Russian but I had no problem following along. Some tunes were different, of course, but as a Conservative Jew I still felt at home in their Orthodox congregation. Seeing a thriving Jewish community in such a far off place was powerful and I am glad I was able to come here and help my peers. The Diaspora may have spread us apart but I think that our powerful traditions will keep us together. Shabbat Shalom.

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

A Donetsk peer’s perspective

 This entry was written by a Ukrainian Hillel peer from Donetsk – Their English is better than our Russian!

Day 3 ASB 2010-08-09

Today was an amazing day and I really enjoyed it. It began like all days with a tasty breakfast and fulfilling work. The American group and Ukrainian peers were divided into small teams like previous days. The work site was located in the Hesed and included various types of work. For example, painting railings and the roof, shellacking walls, collecting trash, cleaning up trash and other painting. At the end of the working day one group, which was in charge of making a ceiling, got necessary materials for completing its work. The most impressive thing was that all the tasks given by director of Donetsk Hesed in the morning were fulfilled.
But the most memorable event was a creative evening, which included both entertainment and relax and dinner. We had time to eat pizza together, a relaxing area, and we also got united by amazing Jewish dances. At the end of the evening all the participants had a possibility to see unique talents, which were demonstrated by many guys. Ilyssa from America and Maxim form Donetsk enchanted everybody with their voices. In my opinion such warm and youth events help us to feel our significance in Jewish world as well as unity and freedom.
It is already known that united people bring more use and mutual help, what we were able to feel throughout these days. I want to thank to this project, the JDC Short-term service program in Ukraine (known here as Alternative Summer Break) due to which we can help the community, get a great experience and make friends.

Tarasenko Oksana.


Friday, August 6th, 2010

Photos from Donetsk Youth Center Grand Opening

Photos of us in the (nearly) finished main room of the new Donetsk Youth Center, the ribbon-cutting ceremony, and the crowd at the grand opening celebration!

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Paint, paint everywhere in Donetsk (and pizza!)

Today was a very eventful day for the Cornell Hillel delegation to Donetsk. We continued our work at the youth center of the chesed welfare center, and got a lot accomplished.  We scraped paint off of window sills, spackled walls, pulled weeds out of the garden, painted the railings, outer walls, and the roof of the building, and loaded literally thousands of pounds into a garbage truck.  By the end of the day, the building looked exponentially cleaner, and more beautiful, with most of the drywall up, peach colored outer walls, and bright red railings and roof.  It has been a very unique experience working with our Ukrainian peers, as they, too, are very excited to work hard and accomplish a lot.  While the language barrier often impedes our progress, we still found a way to work well together.   And our efforts are clearly visible. 

On another note, our Ukrainian peers have continued to us show how excited they are that we are here.  Just today, a group of young children performed a skit for us (entirely in English!), and tonight, our peers organized a disco pizza party for us, with activities including twister, poker, and karaoke.  They are so enthusiastic and excited to be partaking in this program with us, and it reflects in their work ethic on site.  We could not ask for a more fun group of people to work with, and I’m anxious to see how much more we can accomplish as our trip continues.   

 (Photo captions, from the top to bottom: a “before” shot of us painting the outer wall of the youth center; children who attend programs at Hesed helping us clean the yard; a photo with some new Ukrainian friends at the pizza party!)

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

A Donetsk peer’s perspective

This entry was written by a Ukrainian Hillel peer from Donetsk – Their English is better than our Russian!

Donetsk entry:

The second day: In the morning all the college kids have gathered together at the yard of hesed.

Hi everybody! Here I want to tell about some unbelievable facts about this years program. First of all I was surprised and shocked by the high level of organization of the staff – the work and the passports were going very quickly. Also the atmosphere during the day was so warm and friendly that it left only the best feelings!

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Getting started on service in Donetsk

A long day of work is nearly behind us, but we have plenty more to do before the hessed’s youth center is completed.  After attempting to learn and pronounce our new friends’ names, we headed to the hessed and began our toiling.  The work consisted of moving around a huge pile of rubbish, spackling, and tackling some mighty heavy radiators in need of painting.  Being showered via our Ukrainian friends helped keep us cool in the 100+ degree heat.  We then had a chance to hear from some of the older recipients of the hessed’s care.  Many of them were Holocaust survivors, and they had many questions about us and our backgrounds.  After lunch and some more labor, we returned, exhausted, to the hotel for showers and dinner.  We were overall much happier with the choice of pasta over heavily bony fish, and we headed for a mini tour of the city, seeing monuments such as a 30-ton spinning soccer ball outside their glorious stadium and several memorial statues.  We had a good time bowling and bonded some more with our new friends, and are excited for another day of work and jokes tomorrow!

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Greetings from Donetsk, Ukraine!

Greetings from Donetsk! We have safely arrived in Ukraine and have settled down in the Hotel Liverpool (think all Beatles, all the time) in Donetsk, along with our Ukrainian peers. After our flight into Donetsk, where we were greeted with cheers, balloons, and motorcycles, we had some downtime to shower and explore the city. Many of us took the opportunity to change US dollars into Ukranian grivnya and stock our rooms with water. Then it was off to the theater, where we did team building exercises with our new Ukrainian friends and got to dress up in an array of costumes while we were given an exclusive tour of the historic theater. Afterwards, we were treated to a feast of traditional Ukrainian foods, with lots of fish and vegetables. During our meal we broke out to take part in some “Jewish Speed Dating,” having brief, in depth discussions from topics ranging from the happiest day of our young lives to how we spend Shabbat. After saying goodbye, we are now back at the hotel and looking forward to starting work on the Hessed Youth Center tomorrow!

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Peter Jacobs

Hey guys! My name is Peter Jacobs and I’m a rising Sophomore at Cornell from New York City. At school I’m studying History and Music Criticism, and I’m the Arts Editor of the Cornell Daily Sun, our school paper, and am very involved with Cornell Concert Commision and, of course, Hillel. I’m very excited about my first trip to Eastern Europe and meeting everyone!

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Rabbi Dena Shaffer

Rabbi Dena Shaffer, is a graduate of Brandeis University near Boston, Massachusetts and the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. Born and raised in Rochester, Dena is excited to return to Upstate NY and join Cornell Hillel as its first Rabbinic Fellow where she will provide leadership to enhance and strengthen Reform Jewish life on campus and lead our Repair the World initiative. She loves to add stamps to her passport and the Ukraine will be a new one! In addition to her Judaism, Dena is also passionate about her dog, Darby, the martial arts, reading classic and new fiction and getting to know all of you!