This past week 65 students from 10 cities gathered together for a special 6 day youth seminar promoting Jewish traditions and awareness, in an effort to combat assimilation. The seminar’s main topic was Jewish marriage and building a Jewish home.
Rabbi Chaim Danzinger of Rostov was joined by two guest speakers, Rabbi Asher Altshul from New York and Rabbi Moshe Rochlin from Moscow, to offer inspiring and motivating lectures and discussions.
In contrast to other seminars which offer almost non-stop learning, this summer escape combined excellent quality stimulating study and Jewish practice with fun and exciting activities to give the participants a sense of vacation. Most of the students have strict work and study schedules and little money, so they cannot afford to attend separate leisure trips and seminars. By combining the two together, it drew more participants and they were extremely pleased with the balance of activities. Every day they attended 2 lectures and had one exciting outing like ATV’ing or ziplining and in the evenings they enjoyed informal chats with rabbis on various topics of interest pertaining to Jewish life.
On Shabbos the group held 3 bar mitzvahs and 2 girls received Jewish names. At the Banquet which lasted until 2:00 am, each student stood up and made a positive resolution regarding their Jewish observance. Two students, Kostya and Danil, took upon themselves to have a bris this year, and one girl promised that she will only marry a Jew. Another boy had arrived at the seminar wearing a cross. He was raised by a Jewish mother who had become involved in the church and he knew nothing of his own heritage. He is interested in exploring his roots and at the banquet, as a first step, he decided to refrain from using a computer or TV on Shabbos in an effort to begin living a more Jewish life.
Despite the 16 hour bus ride from Rostov to Crimea, all the attendees returned with enthusiasm and gratitude. The program was a big success and Rabbis will follow up with the students throughout the year.
David Faynberg, the leader of ‘Rosh Tov’, Rostov’s youth club, helped organize the event. Afterwards he said, “I am so happy to see a lot of new people coming to a Jewish seminar for the first time! It is great to know that we are actually changing the lives of these young Jews. Having graduated in recent years myself, I know the challenges assimilated students face here and I’m so glad we are succeeding in our programs to bring these kids closer.”
Rabbi Danzinger thanks Rabbi Mendy Wilansky, director of Youth Programming of the FJC, for helping to coordinate funding for this wonderful project and for finding the time to make the long journey to Simferopol to personally participate.
Video has English subtitles, click on Caption