UMBC Hillel – Ukraine – March 2010

Friday, July 9th, 2010

UMBC Hillel Revisits Ukraine via Brighton Beach


In March, students from the Hillel at the University of Maryland Baltimore County volunteered with the Jewish community of Odessa, Ukraine. In June, the students traveled to New York to see the impact Jewish Ukrainians have left on The Big Apple.

Visiting Odessa, Ukraine last March on a JDC Short-Term Service program along with ten other UMBC students on was an incredible, fun experience – and a rather different Spring Break! This past weekend, we reunited as an (almost) full group again during our summer break, for what we call: The Brighton Beach experience.

The idea for this road trip sparked during our time spent together in Odessa, Ukraine, where we often joked that instead of the long flights to the former Soviet Union, we could have simply driven from Baltimore to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, for an authentic Russian experience! We made good on this idea on June 27th, and took a group road trip to check out New York’s Jewish Russian/ Ukrainian Heritage, visiting to Manhattan’s Lower East Side; Rego Park, Queens; and of course, Brighton Beach!

Our first stop was NYC’s Lower East Side, once mostly populated by Jewish immigrants. We stopped by the Elm Street Synagogue, the oldest synagogue built by Eastern European Jewry and surprisingly, we also learned that this synagogue’s first cantor was Pincus Minkowski, a cantor, from – of course – our favorite city, Odessa!

Afterwards we enjoyed lunch at Cheburechnaya, a kosher Bukharin restaurant in Rego Park, Queens. Wanting to relive our experiences in Ukraine, we asked for Cheburakis,  traditional appetizers, common in the Soviet Union, made of a thin layer of fried dough folded over with different fillings inside (very similar to Spanish Empanadas or Brazilian Pastels) and very delicious!

Finally, after months of anticipation, we headed to our highlighted destination, Brighton Beach. As I mentioned before, Brighton had become a central element of our experience in Odessa. According to someone from the participants in our group who shall remain nameless, even while we were IN Ukraine, they kept mentioning that there was simply no better place in the world for the Russian experience (or Russian food, or anything else related to the FSU) than Brighton Beach. Brighton Beach is an area that was stopping point for primarily Jewish immigrants of the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s. After so much hype about it – we simply had to go to Brighton!

Of course, parking at the beach was impossible, but luckily, as we toured around to find space, we found ourselves in an area that was once called Little Odessa! Every sign, store front, and newspapers was in Russian. Walking around the beach in this part of Brooklyn, the last language you would hear is English. After so many conversations and jokes while we were in Odessa about Brighton Beach, we finally understood the connection and we were finally here! And yet, ironically, once we arrived at this Little Odessa, we felt like we were stepping back into our experiences in the real Odessa, the Odessa, Ukraine we fell in love with during our in the Former Soviet Union. It was great to revisit together and hopefully we’ll get a chance to go back and connect once more!

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

UMBC Hillel: Warm Homes, More Pics!

From March 14-22, 2010, students from Hillel at University of Maryland Baltimore County will volunteered with the Jewish community of Odessa, Ukraine.

In Odessa, we visited a JDC program called Warm Homes, in which one of the Jewish elderly in the community open their homes to other Hesed beneficiaries, offering a place to meet and converse with others of a similar background.

We were split into two groups, visiting a warm home of righteous gentiles/Holocaust survivors and another of Jewish community volunteers. Students received new perspectives from our hosts with teary eyes and/or big smiles, but all with great stories to tell.

One story of from the survivors featured a child of an interfaith marriage, whose ill Christian father attempted desperately to save him and his mother from the Holocaust and died without having the knowledge that they had been safe in hiding. Some of our hosts had great musical talents – one was a professional singer and actress and performed for the guests.

We followed our visits with a walking tour of Odessa. The night was topped off by amazing kosher dinner and karaoke, when both Odessans and UMBC students gave their best shot at singing. It was another intense day that appear to have lasted at least three days, but it was worth it.

Below are pictures from our visits with the elderly, and many others from the entire trip!

Previous posts from UMBC Hillel in Ukraine: Arrival in Odessa | Day Two in Odessa!

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

UMBC Hillel: Day Two in Odessa!

From March 14-22, 2010, students from Hillel at University of Maryland Baltimore County will volunteer with the Jewish community of Odessa, Ukraine.

Previous posts from UMBC Hillel in Ukraine: Arrival in Odessa

Reporting from The Octoberskya, our hotel in Odessa… it’s day two in Ukraine.

The streets are starting to become more familiar. Initially, we were shocked by the contrast of seeing trolley cars, old buildings, drivers driving on the wrong side of the street, alongside well-dressed people wandering the streets. It all begins to settle in and become normal, a regular part of our everyday scenery.

We each set two alarm clocks for this morning, but somehow managed to oversleep. Luckily we were still able to finish breakfast only 10 minutes behind schedule.

First stop today was the Beit Grand Jewish Cultural Center, where we had the privilege to learn about the importance of the Center and meet the elderly from the Hesed. (Photos from this visit and our other service activities are below!)

The Hesed is a JCC program that not only gives food supplies or funds to empower the elderly to purchase materials, but also provides classes and entertainment to the Jewish elderly in Odessa. Students engaged the senior citizens participants by sharing experiences and learning some new dance moves. As many of us speak Russian, Yiddish and Hebrew, we were able to communicate very well!

Afterwards, everyone had some fun outside with the kindergarten students. During lunch, things got more serious. Professor Vladimir Dubovik, an U.S. foreign policy expert, gave a summary of the economic, political, and social situation of the Ukraine from its origins until present day.

Afterwards, our service work continued with a trip to the Odessa Hillel Center that is being renovated. Painting, cleaning, scrapping, amongst other things, left the place a lot tidier, and ready for day two of renovations.

After a hard day’s work, we had an amazing dinner at the Hutorok Ukrainian restaurant, providing students a feel for Ukrainian cuisine – kosher style, of course. This was followed by a reflection session, which left us thinking about what we had learned since the journey began, with interesting topics such as “should gender be defined as male or female?”, “is there a such thing as ‘Jewish Statehood’?” or “what does community mean to each of us?”.

More updates to come!

~ Luanna

* Pictures of our service so far! *

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

UMBC Hillel: Arrival in Odessa

From March 14-22, 2010, students from Hillel at University of Maryland Baltimore County will volunteer with the Jewish community of Odessa, Ukraine.

We’re here.  After all the discussion, planning, and anxiety, we’re here.  It’s been a long day of travel, unpacking, and socializing, but we are all excited for the upcoming week.

As we drove in our comfortable charter bus with several locals to our hotel from the Odessa airport after roughly 13 hours of travel, the reality of being in Odessa sunk in.  Along with slums with flaming trash cans at their center, century old buildings needing repair, and dilapidated cars from the Soviet era, we saw the fronts of new businesses and architecture, stylishly dressed people going about and enjoying their day, and a sense of the newly emerging Odessa and Ukraine.  As people discussed what they saw, prejudices and reality were beginning to meet…for better or worse.  We look forward to seeing how these merge.

After settling into the hotel we went to dinner with about six residents of Odessa. This was a great beginning to the week. The food was great, we were finally meeting with the people we’d heard about and they were interested in talking with us.  Over the meal, we discussed topics ranging from Judaism, to Levi jeans, to movies.  Everyone looks forward to interacting with them more.

Boarding Ukrainian International Airlines, en route to Odessa!

As I think over the day and the upcoming days, I’m anxious to make the most of this opportunity, but not sure the best way to do so.  Part says go with the flow/program, another says follow some people’s leads who are comfortable with Russian, another says focus on talking and building connections with the Odessan who are with us.  I feel like a stranger in a strange land.  Hopefully as the week progresses, the people and culture won’t seem as foreign, but just another piece of the unified, global Jewish mosaic.

More photos to come!

~ Richard Goldman

We’re here. After all the discussion, planning, and anxiety, we’re here. It’s been a long day of travel, unpacking, and socializing, but we are all excited for the upcoming week.

As we drove in our comfortable charter bus with several locals to our hotel from the Odessa airport after roughly 13 hours of travel, the reality of being in Odessa sunk in. Along with slums with flaming trash cans at their center, century old buildings needing repair, and dilapidated cars from the Soviet era, we saw the fronts of new businesses and architecture, stylishly dressed people going about and enjoying their day, and a sense of the newly emerging Odessa and Ukraine. As people discussed what they saw, prejudices and reality were beginning to meet…for better or worse. We look forward to seeing how these merge.

After settling into the hotel we went to dinner with about six residents of Odessa. This was a great beginning to the week. The food was great, we were finally meeting with the people we’d heard about and they were interested in talking with us. Over the meal, we discussed topics ranging from Judaism, to Levi jeans, to movies. Everyone looks forward to interacting with them more.

As I think over the day and the upcoming days, I’m anxious to make the most of this opportunity, but not sure the best way to do so. Part says go with the flow/program, another says follow some people’s leads who are comfortable with Russian, another says focus on talking and building connections with the Odessan who are with us. I feel like a stranger in a strange land. Hopefully as the week progresses, the people and culture won’t seem as foreign, but just another piece of the unified, global Jewish mosaic.

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Commentary on Esther

This week, we explored Megilat Esther, the Scroll of Esther that we read on Purim. We read with an eye toward questions of power, antisemitism, and choices about concealing and revealing identity.

Here are some of of our thoughts:

–The queen has the power with everyone following her example.

–What is the text trying to say? Are the kings advisers worried about the implications of the queen defying the king in terms of relationships between women and men?

–The king has a propensity for having feasts and allows himself to get out of control and become a passive figure.

–The king ironically is the most easily manipulated and as a result of his manipulations people get their way.

Explain Esther’s identity in terms of Judaism?

–She had to lie since we see the king as a passive character. Many believe Esther never slept with the king. It is often believed that the king had more control than most believed. Esther’s body was linked to the king but her passion and soul was dedicated to Mordecai. There is a feeling of persecution and lying to avoid it helps to keep Jews in a better light since he would never took her in had he known about her religion.

–Some women sign up for the contest because they want to be there for a better opportunity while others are there because it seems mandatory.

–Odd that Mordecai appears to be from more than one tribe. The Talmud cites this as evidence that Mordecai is believed to be righteous as a result of having his entire lineage revealed. Lack of a matrimonial descent line back in the days of Persia.

–Mordeccai refuses to bow to the king as a result of his faith. 2nd commandment of the “10.”

–Debate of whether one has ever avoided revealing their Judaism in order to stay in good favor or not fall out of favor with people.

Does Esther sending Mordecai clothing show that she is giving up her religion and selling out to the public?

Is it a farce of a marriage that the queen cannot see the king unless summoned without punishment by death?

Jews are going to be killed and not given the option to “convert” to Persian ways like in future scenarios (Spanish Inquisition, for example).

Are Esther and Mordecai the only Jews in the entire city?

Analogy to story of the Pope walking through a crowd of people and a Jew not kneeling before him.

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Welcome to ODESSA! ;)

Hi, guys!

My name is Sasha Zlobina. I work for Odessa Hillel as deputy director and I’m very excited about your trip to Odessa!
You will spend 7 wonderful days with our students, doing good things, talking with interesting people and having fun in one of the best cities in the world.

Here’s a list of our biographies:

Eugene Mogilevskyi

Hobbies: sport, literature, music.
Email (for direct / private communication): tywkan@gmail.com
Languages spoken: English, Russian, French
Language I wish I knew how to speak: Hebrew, Spanish, Italian
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000745012251
Favorite Books, Music, etc: Aleksandr Dumas, Emile Zola

Tatyana Yushina

Hobbies: photography, reading, fitness, running, sport.
Email (for direct / private communication): tat7120@yandex.ru
Languages spoken: Russian, Ukrainian
Language I wish I knew how to speak: English, Spanish
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1407049228
Favorite Books, Music, etc: Paulo Coelio, Anna Gavaldi

Elena Belskaya

Hobbies: theatre, dancing, exploring new trends in economie
Email (for direct / private communication): elenka.belskaya@gmail.com
Languages spoken: Russian, English
Language I wish I knew how to speak: Hebrew
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/lena.belskaya?ref=search&sid=1344850694.2388397239..1
Favorite Books, Music, etc: Bulgakov

Christina Fogel

Hobbies: Meeting with Interesting people; Reading; Walking; and Leading Excursions in Odessa.
Area of Study: Ecology
Email: cleopatra_07@mail.ru
Languages Spoken: Russian, Ukrainian, Yiddish, English
Languages I wish I knew how to speak: English more fluently
Favorite Music, Books, etc…: Paulo Coelho, Mark Levy

Ilya Zubrytsky

Hobbies: Traveling; Playing the Fortepiano
Area of Study: Economics and Management
Email: zubrik@list.ru
Languages Spoken: English, German, Russian, Ukrainian
Languages I wish I knew how to speak: Italian and Chinese
Favorite Music, Books, etc…: O’Henry, J.R.R. Tolkin, Anton Chekov
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/profile.php?id=716392915&ref=ts

Maxsim Kurdinovich

Hobbies: Composing Raps; Thai-Box
Area of Study: Management and Organizational Economics
Email: appmi@mail.ru
Languages Spoken: Russian, Ukrainian, English
Languages I wish I knew how to speak: Hebrew and Spanish
Favorite Music, Books, etc…: Rap, Paulo Coelho

Julia Makarenko

Hobbies: KAVN
Area of Study: Inter-Cultural Studies and Theater
Email: chasm@ukr.net
Languages Spoken: Russian, Ukrainian, English
Languages I wish I knew: Spanish
Favorite Music, Books, etc…: Eclectic

Sasha Zlobina

Hobbies: singing, dancing, reading, travelling.
Email (for direct / private communication): sasha.zlobina@gmail.com
Languages spoken: Russian, English, Ukrainian
Language I wish I knew how to speak: Hebrew, French, Chinese
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?ref=profile&id=1344850694
Favorite Books, Music, etc: Jazz music, Haruki Murakami

Visit our website: www.hillel.org.ua

and… WELCOME TO ODESSA! ;)

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Biographies of UMBC Students

Here’s the beginning of a list of our biographies (with more bios still to come):

Margaret Kott

Hobbies: Reading, singing, doing yoga, dancing, camping, biking.
Major: Graphic Biology
Class Standing: Junior
Email (for direct / private communication): margaret.kott@gmail.com
Languages spoken: English, Russian
Language I wish I knew how to speak: Spanish, Korean, French, Hebrew
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/margaretkott
What do you want others to know about our relationship with Judaism?
I am a Humanistic Jew.
What we’ve heard from our parents about Odessa/Ukraine:
Not much. I’ve heard that Odessa is a beautiful vacation city.

Favorite Books, Music, etc: I love Thackeray’s Vanity Fair and books by Terry Pratchett and Jane Austen. I love John Mayer and Michael Buble.

Brenah Srour

Hobbies: Lacrosse, computers, traveling.
Major: Graphic Design
Class Standing: Sophomore
Email (for direct / private communication): brenah1@umbc.edu
Languages spoken: English, Hebrew.
Language I wish I knew how to speak: (: French, Arabic
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/bre.srour
What do you want others to know about our relationship with Judaism?
I consider myself modern Orthodox.
What we’ve heard from our parents about Odessa/Ukraine:
Not much.  I am looking forward to an entirely new experience.

Favorite Books, Music, etc: depends on my food.  I am not picky =)

Samuel Khuvis

Hobbies: Running
Major: Mathematics
Class Standing: Senior
Email (for direct / private communication): khsa1@umbc.edu
Languages spoken: English, Russian.
Language I wish I knew how to speak: Yiddish
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/skhuvis

Hannah Akkerman

Hobbies: Working out, traveling, watching sports, being with my friends, and dancing.
Major: Political Science and Psychology
Class Standing: Junior
What do you want others to know about our relationship with Judaism?
I am not completely religious, but I love learning about Judaism, and teaching others who are not Jewish, about our traditions and customs.
What we’ve heard from our parents about Odessa/Ukraine:
I’ve heard that Odessa is beautiful, but not much else.
Email (for off list communication): akkerm1@umbc.edu
Languages spoken: Pretty much just English.
Facebook page:

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?ref=profile&id=1223310003

Favorite Books, Music, etc: Obsessed, When I Found You, and I do enjoy the Twilight series :/ haha.  I actually love Country music, but I listen to everything including rock and hip hop.

Igor Shusterman

Hobbies: reading, swimming, photography.
Major: Biochemistry and molecular biology
Class Standing: Junior
What do you want others to know about our relationship with Judaism: I am familiar with the Jewish customs and practices though not deeply religious.  I enjoy learning about Judaism and the impact it has on others.
What we’ve heard from our parents about Odessa/Ukraine: I was born in Kiev but have never seen Odessa.  I have heard it is a beautiful city by the sea with a lot of Jewish heritage.
Email (for off list communication): ishuste1@umbc.edu
Languages spoken:  English, Russian, and some Spanish
Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/igor.shusterman (feel free to friend)
Favorite Books, Music, etc: Trance and house, read everything Dan Brown/John Grisham/Daniel Silva/Tom Clancy

Luanna Azulay

Hobbies: watching foreign films, surfing the web, and dancing.

Major: Political Science
Class Standing: Senior
What do you want others to know about our relationship with Judaism: Conservative Judaism.  I do seldom keep strict Shabbat, and I do enjoy going to synagogue quite often.
enjoyed learning what i know about Judaism and participating in its practice from time to time.
What we’ve heard from our parents about Odessa/Ukraine: I know the mayor of Odessa is Jewish and that if you tellanyone in the Ukraine you are from Odessa, they will ask you if you are Jewish.  I also heard that there was a lot of prejudice against Jews in Ukraine, and different Jewish non-profits are working hard in revitalizing Jewish life there and in other parts of the Former Soviet Union.
Email (for off list communication): luazula1@umbc.edu
Languages spoken: Portuguese, English, Spanish, some French
Languages I wish I spoke: Russian, Romanian, Italian, and Hebrew

Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/luanna.azulay?ref=name
Favorite Books, Music, etc: My favorite book is Catcher in the Rye and the Open Veins of Latin America.  I love world music.  Some of which are: Zohar Argov, Sarit Hadad, Mosh Ben Ari, Balkan Beat Box, Arash, Cameron Cartio, Sarbel, Tarkan, Edith Piaf, Sanseverino, Trio Los Panchos, Julieta Venegas, Hanson, Of Montreal, Arctic Monkeys, Little Joy, Devendra Barnhart, Peter Tosh, Black Uhuru, Toots and the Maytals.

Rich Goldman

Hobbies: Israeli Dancing, Teaching Hebrew School and Computer
Programming, Reading, pro-liberty/libertarian organizing
Major: PhD Candidate in Information Systems
Class Standing: PhD Candidate
What do you want others to know about our relationship with Judaism:
I have a growing relationship with Judaism and enjoy studying Jewish
wisdom and commandments and incorporating that knowledge into my
outlook and actions.
What we’ve heard from our parents about Odessa/Ukraine: Very little.
Email (for direct / private communication): rich1@umbc.edu
Languages spoken: English
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/rich.goldman1?ref=profile
Favorite Books, Music, etc: Israeli and Bluegrass music, The
Fountainhead
by Ayn Rand

Yevgeniy (Jeff) Arber

Hobbies: Guitar, Computers/Technology
Major: Information Systems
Class Standing: Freshman.
What do you want others to know about our relationship with Judaism?
I am a Humanistic Jew. I follow Judaism culturally, rather than as a
religion. I celebrate the holidays and follow certain rules as a
cultural tradition more-so than out of worship.
What we’ve heard from our parents about Odessa/Ukraine:
Heard about bad Anti-semitism. Lots of bribery. How has that changed
Email (for off list communication): yarber1@umbc.edu
Languages spoken: Russian, English, some Spanish
Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/home.php?filter=lf#/jeffarber?ref=profile
Favorite Books, Music, etc: Power Metal, Techno, Circle Trilogy by Ted
Dekker, Stephen King, some non-fiction.

Maxim Serebreni

Hobbies: playing tennis, soccer and other sports, Running, Traveling,
Hiking, Movies
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Class Standing: 3rd year
What do you want others to know about our relationship with Judaism: I
am not religious but I am familiar with many customs and traditions
What we’ve heard from our parents about Odessa/Ukraine: I have heard that Odessa is a very beautiful city
Email (for off list communication): maxim1@umbc.edu
Languages spoken: Hebrew, English, Russian
Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?ref=profile#!/profile.php?id=1226880330&ref=ts
Favorite Books, Music, etc: Israeli Rock, Classic Rock

Radmila Fishman

Hobbies: Reading, Latchooking, Gym
Major: Health Administration and Public Policy
Class Standing: Junior
What do you want others to know about our relationship with Judaism: I want others to know that i am not very religious but i have certainly
enjoyed learning what i know about Judaism and participating in its practice from time to time.
What we’ve heard from our parents about Odessa/Ukraine: I have heard that Odessa is a huge and beautiful city. I have heard that judaism was highly suppressed when my parents grew up but that the freedom of religion has gotten better.
Email (for off list communication): fish3@umbc.edu
Languages spoken: Russian, English, some Spanish from school
Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/profile.php?id=1227360288&ref=ts
Favorite Books, Music, etc: A Boy Called It, Holes, Die Softly, I like Hip-Hop and R&B music

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Introductions

Tonight, we created in Baltimore created some questions for people to answer to introduce them to the group.  We’re planning to begin posting answers tomorrow.  Please answer whatever you’re comfortable with and add additional questions!

Name:

Email Address (for off-list communication):

What year in school you are:

What you study/major:

What languages do you speak:

What languages do you wish you spoke? (:

What are your hobbies:

What do you want others to know about your relationship with Judaism:

What have you heard about Ukraine/Odessa (for the Baltimoreans) or the United States/Baltimore (for the Odessans):

What are your favorite books, music, etc:

Link to your facebook page:

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Commentaries on “Lech Lecha”

One of our activities at our orientation session at UMBC was discussing the opening of Lech Lecha which is the third Torah portion in the biblical book of Genesis.  Here’s how it starts:

וַיֹּאמֶר יְ-הוָה אֶל-אַבְרָם, לֶךְ-לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ.  וְאֶעֶשְׂךָ, לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל, וַאֲבָרֶכְךָ, וַאֲגַדְּלָה שְׁמֶךָ; וֶהְיֵה, בְּרָכָה.  וַאֲבָרְכָה, מְבָרְכֶיךָ, וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ, אָאֹר; וְנִבְרְכוּ בְךָ, כֹּל מִשְׁפְּחֹת הָאֲדָמָה

The Lord said to Abram: “Go forth from your native land, from your birthplace, from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you.  I will make your name great and you shall be a blessing.  And I will bless those that bless you and curse those that curse you, and all the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”

И СКАЗАЛ БОГ АВРАМУ: “УXОДИ ИЗ СТРАНЫ ТВОЕЙ, С РОДИНЫ ТВОЕЙ, ОТ СЕМЬИ ОТЦА ТВОЕГО – В СТРАНУ, КОТОРУЮ Я УКАЖУ ТЕБЕ. И СДЕЛАЮ ТЕБЯ ВЕЛИКИМ НАРОДОМ, И БЛАГОСЛОВЛЮ ТЕБЯ, И ВОЗВЕЛИЧУ ИМЯ ТВОЕ, И ТЫ САМ БУДЕШЬ БЛАГОСЛОВЕНИЕМ. И БЛАГОСЛОВЛЮ БЛАГОСЛОВЛЯЮЩИX ТЕБЯ, А КЛЯНУЩЕГО ТЕБЯ – ПРОКЛЯНУ, И ИМЕНЕМ ТВОИМ БУДУТ БЛАГОСЛОВЛЯТЬСЯ ВСЕ ПЛЕМЕНА НА ЗЕМЛЕ”

Some of our comments on the text

*God is telling Abraham to leave from his home, what he is comfortable with, and trust in Him to take him on a jorney that will better his future and will be an example unto the Jewish nation.

*The text sounds like God’s bribe to Abraham.  God wants Abraham to go somewhere and uses blessings as incentive, sort of like: “Hey, Abraham, if you leave here and go where I tell you, and do what I tell you, I’ll make it worth your while with blessings and such.”

*He needed to leave his homeland to find himself.  By doing that he will be blessed by God.

*WILLINGNESS to be open and receptive is so important.  Sometimes you need to leave all  your baggage behind to get to where you need to be.  Sometimes you know what needs to be done; sometimes  you need to be pushed/told/inspired.

*The Lord tells Abram to go forth and explore the world while being blessed and protected.

*Did Abraham discuss this “call” with other people?  If so, what did they think?  It seems like today someone who “hears God’s voice” is more often a candidate for medication than for a physical journey.

*”Go forth from your native land, from your birthplace”–Take what you learned from leaving your native land, and go within yourself in order to find what you are.  Therefore, I shall bless you.

*Spread your blessing to others with Hashem’s help.

*Origin of the ability to do something risky to achieve fulfillment of a higher understanding.

*The repetition, in the rough English translation, of the word “from,” as in “Go forth from…from…from your birthplace,” places emphasis on the merits of leaving one’s sphere of comfort to explore what the rest of our world is lacking.  Going forth, as Abram was told to do, augments our awareness of what the Earth contains and what we may do to improve it.  It is something we must also strive to do.

*Part of covenant to engage, enjoy, and explore the world; need/want some direction and destination; we don’t (always) see the end of the journey/covenant we start; do good/be righteous, not selfish in your (life) journey.

*Go by yourself so as not to be influenced by others’ thoughts and wishes.  You know what is best and I will stand by you and your decisions.  I will show you the way; don’t be blindsided by other options.

*God tells Abram that there is a better land for the Jewish people to live in, a land that will feel as native as the one they left to follow the promise of God.

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

UMBC Hillel Odessa orientation

All eleven UMBC students heading to our sister city, Odessa, this March gathered together today with Gila Ward of JDC and Rabbi Jason Klein of UMBC Hillel to get to know each other better, understand the work of JDC, and start making plans for our trip.  We drank some tea, ate some cookies, and figured out what times work best for the group to gather over the course of the next few weeks to prepare for our trip and make time to get to know our peers in Odessa better.

We are a diverse group.  More than half of us were born outside the United States, including the Former Soviet Union and about half of us speak Russian really well, some even Ukrainian.  Our students range in age from 18 to 26 and represent a variety of humanities and science majors.  Our hobbies range from guitar-playing and lacrosse to cheer-leading and travel.

We also studied a short text from the biblical book of Genesis about Abraham being told “Lech lecha” — “go forth” and considered what the text might mean to each of us.

Pictured here are (back row, left-to-right) Rabbi Jason, Igor, Yuri, Jeff, Margaret, Hannah, Mila, Rich (front row, left-to-right), Luanna, Brenah, Samuel, and Maxim.  That’s actually a huge Ukrainian flag behind us, but it’s hard to see the yellow bottom stripe.