By Gennady Favel and Irina Rakhlis
Four years ago a group of Russian-speaking Jewish (RSJ) parents from South Brooklyn set around the kitchen table debating different ways of getting people like themselves more involved in the Jewish community. From their experience in various lay-leadership roles in Jewish organizations there was still much to be done to get the first generation of Russian Jewish immigrants excited about Judaism. Ultimately they agreed that in order for RSJs to get more active in Jewish life two things had to happen. One, they had to be exposed to broad Jewish topics on a highly intellectual level, which meant learning with top educators and scholars. And two, the initiative had to be created and managed by people like themselves – Russian Jewish parents, people who where professionally and family-mined and who also wanted to explore their connection to Judaism, Jewish history and Israel. From that idea, the Jewish Parent Academy was born!
Over the past four years, JPA became a household name within the RSJ community in New York, successfully graduating four Brooklyn cohort programs with the fifth one starting in 2020. Today, JPA is one-of-a-kind Jewish educational and community-building program that educates RSJ parents through intellectually challenging, culturally sensitive, and identity building learning experiences. In the worlds of an alumni who went on to join the board of another RSJ-serving organization after her time in JPA “This has been a much needed and life-transforming experience. I walked away after JPA having more passion for Judaism and a far stronger Jewish identity than I could ever imagine having. Every lecture and event I participated in helped me affirm my commitment to Judaism. My family has been getting more involved as well and we are working on becoming much more active members of the Russian-Jewish community.”
By utilizing the extensive RSJ network, JPA created avenues for connection and engagement with American Jewish Organizations. JPA became the gateway into the Russian-speaking Jewish community for national organizations such as AIPAC, AJC, UJA, and Ezer Mezion. As JPA expands, our aim is to create partnerships with people and institutions looking for more meaningful RSJ involvement.
This is why we are excited to announce that JPA is launching a cohort learning program for Russian-speaking Jewish parents in Manhattan. Joining us in spearheading this initiative are committed leaders from Manhattan’s RSJ community. The Manhattan committee will lead JPA’s Manhattan chapter by selecting top candidates for the program, partnering on curriculum development, and working with participants and alumni to further their involvement with Jewish institutions.
JPA’s vision is a cohesive community of Russian-speaking Jews who possess a rich understanding of their unique background and empowered to contribute to the larger American Jewish community. We aim to validate Russian-Jewish identity as a resilient and profoundly meaningful form of Jewish identity, and to instill pride and interest in this heritage among younger generations of American-born children. We hope to create a strong social network of RSJ families that is imbued with deep Jewish knowledge and actively interested in Jewish life in the United States, Israel, and around the world.
JPA Manhattan is hosting an open-house for the program on November 19th. Participants interested in attending and applying can visit JPA’s Facebook page to learn more and RSVP:
JPA’s expansion is generously funded in part by the Fooksman Family Foundation.
Gennady Favel and Irina Rakhlis are two of JPA’s co-founders and lead marketing and partner engagement respectively.