After 70 years of religious oppression, Jewish communities in the Former Soviet Union are being revived. For them to succeed, they need the help and support of established communities, such as our own. Each synagogue within Mosaic twinned with one of these communities aims to help support and sustain the increasing number of Jews who identify with the Progressive Movement. Twinning provides a structure in which information can be shared and friendships forged. Although funds are needed to help these communities to survive, what they really want is to be shown the rituals and what they mean, and to fill in the gaps in history that others sought to erase.
The Severnaya Community, founded in 2000, is located in the northern outskirts of Moscow and has about 100 members, many of whom are pensioners. It is exceptional among the World Union constellation of Progressive communities in that it is completely self-sustaining on the basis of voluntarism among its members. Severnaya holds Kabbalat Shabbat services every Friday evening. On Sunday mornings, there are activities ranging from lectures on Judaism to family-style programmes, and even music and video clubs. The congregation has also started developing a youth and young adults’ group, in order to attract a younger cadre of members. Although there is a paid community worker, congregation members delegate among themselves responsibility for such work as organising and publicising events and providing refreshments. They also visit the housebound, bringing with them news, activities, companionship and a sense of belonging. Severnaya’s uniqueness has been recognised by other Jewish organisations, including the Joint Distribution Committee, which two years ago named it the best Jewish community project in the former Soviet Union. Rabbi Leonid Bimbat is one of the Rabbis who lead the Severnaya Community.
L’Dor Va-Dor Community
Mosaic Reform has a new contact at the L’Dor Va-Dor Community, which shares premises with Severnaya at the Moscow Centre for Progressive Judaism. We have already enjoyed personal visits from its members and we exchange electronic newsletters and gifts of Judaica with them. Our aim is to strengthen ties between our two communities, to better understand their needs, and thereby enable them to develop their Jewish spiritual culture. The Senior Rabbi of the congregation is Alexander (Sasha) Lyskovoy. He leads a thriving community, which enjoys a wide range of religious, educational, social, youth and cultural activities.
Our magazine is sent electronically on a monthly basis to the two communities. Members of Mosaic have visited the Severnaya and L’Dor Va-Dor communities and Rabbi Leonid Bimbat and Rabbi Alexander Lyskovoy have visited us.
Progressive Jewish Community in Kyiv
Mosaic Liberal Synagogue has been twinned with the Progressive Jewish Community of Kyiv since the late 1990s. This began when their Rabbi, Rabbi Alex Dukhovny, was a student Rabbi at HWPS fifteen years ago under the mentoring of Rabbi Frank Dabba Smith.
Finance is always a problem and the community is heavily reliant on outside help. Every year funds have been raised and donated through the Mosaic Liberal Synagogue High Holy Days appeal and through the Kiev Koppers campaign led by Rita Asbury. Since its inception fourteen years ago, the Kiev Koppers scheme has raised £14,500 for their Progressive Jewish Community, all from tiny amounts of money and congregants’ spare change. Much of these funds have supported the continued running of the community’s kindergartens, while regular donations of Jewish ritual items such as Torah scrolls and Judaica from Mosaic Liberal have enabled the community to continue to thrive in its performance of ritual and religious practices.
Under Rabbi Dukhovny’s leadership the community has expanded rapidly. Last year, with the help of financial support from the World Union for Progressive Judaism, it was able to move into new premises, allowing them to develop a wide range of communal activities such as the Netzer youth club and the Jewish Family School.
Rabbi Dabba Smith has taken a group of teenagers from the community to meet teenagers in Ukraine and a group of their teenagers have visited here in return. Rabbi Alex Dukhovny regularly visits Mosaic, and sees it as his home community because of the links he has to us dating back to his years as a rabbinic student.
During the current political upheaval Rabbi Frank Dabba Smith is in constant contact with Rabbi Alex offering support and a shared dark Eastern Jewish humour.
Please contact us for further information about our twinned communities and how to get involved.