Fear in a Library, then Aliyah to Israel

photo by Nathan Roie

The Balaban family of Gorlovka, Ukraine, fled their home after Olga's workplace was shelled. Now adjusting to their new home in Haifa, they look back at the home they left, and forward to the lives they hope to build here. By Nathan Roie Olga Balaban, 56, had just 10 months to go until she could retire from her job as a librarian at the medical school in her hometown of Gorlovka, in Eastern Ukraine, where she had lived her entire life. Other than the fact that her husband suffers from a disability that complicates his daily life, things were good: she was surrounded by books, her son Andrei, 25, was working successfully as a computer programmer, and her older son, Roman, lived in Israel with his wife and two daughters. Olga was content. She, her husband, and Andrei were thinking … [Read more...]

A Conversation With Chaim Chesler

Meeting with President Shimon Peres; (l-r) Matthew Bronfman, Shimon Peres, Aaron Frenkel, Chaim Chesler, Sandra Cahn; courtesy Chaim Chesler.

[With the fall Limmud FSU schedule in full swing, Asher Weill sat with Chaim Chesler - a long-time advocate for Soviet Jewry and Founder of Limmud FSU. In 2006, together with Sandra Cahn (US) and Mikhail Chlenov (Russia), Chaim founded Limmud FSU and chairs its Executive Committee. As executive director of the Israel Public Council for Soviet Jewry, he worked in Israel and around the globe to raise awareness of the struggle of Soviet Jews and their right to repatriate to Israel. Chesler headed The Jewish Agency for Israel’s delegation to the former Soviet Union and the United States, and served as treasurer of The Jewish Agency.] My mother came to pre-State Palestine from Bialystok in Poland in 1933, my father also managed to get out just in time in 1938, but most of their families did not. … [Read more...]

Why Sharansky is Wrong to Write off European Jewry

A leader is one whose words not only describe reality, but whose words prescribe the future. By Barbara Spectre “I believe we are beginning to see the end of Jewish history in Europe” Natan Sharansky, Jewish Chronicle (UK) July 25th Dear Natan, I am certain that it gave you no joy to have uttered what you said, in the wake of rising antisemitism and the discomfort of Jews in France, as well as increased aliyah to Israel. You suggested that the situation might herald not only the demise of the venerable French Jewish community but also of Jewish communities throughout Europe. That prediction must cause you pain, as I know of your deep dedication to Jews wherever they are. You are one of the most powerful and respected leaders in the Jewish world today, carrying with that leadership … [Read more...]

Compounding One Mistake With Another Mistake


The failure of Israeli politicians and bureaucrats to fully appreciate the complicated voluntary [philanthropic] system in the Diaspora will only alienate current donors and fail to attract new ones. By Stephen G. Donshik If it were not so sad, it would seem be a comedy of errors. First the Israeli government announces the initiation of the World Jewry Joint Initiative (the Initiative), to be developed by it in a partnership with The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI). The next thing we hear is that the government is moving ahead on its own and does not seem to be engaging JAFI in planning the strategy and the developing the Initiative program. Using a tongue-and-cheek perspective, you could say that one mistake is being compounded by another mistake. The entire Initiative process seems to be … [Read more...]

As Gov’t Diaspora Initiative Moves Forward, Politics at the Forefront

With rockets targeting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv this evening the latest ceasefire is already a joke. So too is the relationship between the principal players in the World Jewry Joint Initiative (ofter referred to as the Prime Minister's Initiative (PMI) on this site and elsewhere). Let's back up to an abbreviated history. Last July, eJP broke the story on the planning for this ground-breaking project. The PMI was pegged as a $300 million a year program and made headlines around Israel and the Jewish world. At that point in time, The Jewish Agency (JAFI) had been working with the Prime Minister’s Office on the project for almost a year. In November of last year, a Summit was held in Jerusalem bringing together over a  hundred representatives of Jewish communities worldwide, including The Agency's … [Read more...]

Bringing It Home: Introducing Young Israeli Emissaries to American Jewish Life

160 young Jewish Agency shlichim will participate in a New York seminar aimed at introducing them to American Jewish life and inspiring them to remain engaged and serve as a link to world Jewry upon their return to Israel. The “Bringing It Home” 3 day seminar is being organized by The Jewish Agency for Israel with significant support from UJA-Federation of New York. The seminar curriculum is being provided by The Jewish Agency’s Makom unit. Every year, The Jewish Agency for Israel's Summer Shlichim Program sends more than 1,100 young Israelis to more than 200 Jewish summer camps across North America, where they engage in a vast range of educational activities and provide campers and staff with a personal connection to Israel. This year, as shlichim return from summer camps throughout the greater … [Read more...]

Reinventing Summer for College Students – and Summer Camps

By Sara Merken and Jenny Kaufman Our universities want us to get an internship, but our hearts push us to go back to camp, or to Israel. What's incredible: our camp, Camp Pembroke, is allowing us to do it all. As first-ever participants in the Dor L'Dor: College Style program, a partnership between the Cohen Camps and The Jewish Agency's Onward Israel post-Birthright initiative, we are having a summer filled with amazing experiences to add to our resume. Jewish summer camps around the country have been seeking new initiatives to bring experienced counselors back to camp, and the Dor L'Dor: College Style is the perfect way to do it. We're truly experiencing the best of everything, and we would recommend it to others in a heartbeat. For five weeks in between the end of the school year and the … [Read more...]

Summertime in Ukraine

JAFI camp for highlights

Despite escalating violence throughout Ukraine, normal routine continues to remain a priority for Jewish Agency programming. By Avital Chizhik special to eJP It’s a hot summer in Ukraine. And the streets are mostly empty of children. Anna Landberg, director of The Jewish Agency summer camp in Kharkov in eastern Ukraine, sighs as she remembers the difficulty of recruiting for summer camps. “Parents are afraid to send their children out of sight here,” she says. “No one knows what will happen tomorrow and it’s been very difficult figuring out even the simplest logistics, like the children’s transportation to our camp sites. There are days when we are almost positive that the camp will be full, and there are other days where many families change their minds. Out of fear.” Despite the … [Read more...]