by Ron Atkins
This past month, fifteen IDF officers, most of whom are originally from the FSU, visited Kiev and Moscow through the third Mahut program. The program, whose goal is developing a Jewish and Israeli identity among IDF officers, is a joint initiative of Beit Morasha of Jerusalem, FIDF, Genesis Philanthropy Group and the IDF.
During the the visit, the officers toured various educational sites and met with both young Jewish adults and local Jewish community leaders. Through these visits, the participants gained a new perspective on Jewish identity and learned much about the uniqueness of the local Jewish communities. This encounter is also of great significance for the young Jews who will become the future leaders of the local Jewish community.
Most important, the visit connects the participants to the history and cultural heritage of Russian speaking Jewry and to the worldwide Russian speaking communities of the present.
According to Stan Polovets, Genesis Philanthropy Group co-founder and CEO, “Despite revolutions and wars, persecutions, bigotry, and attempts to deprive them of their own history, Russian Jews preserved their identity by holding on to a common body of values and priorities. The contribution of this population is evident in the development of Russian and world culture and science, and in the creation of ideologies, political and social movements.”
A previous Mahut event [June, 2010] saw 14 IDF officers, eight of whom were Russian-speaking, visit the U.S. There, they had the opportunity to meet with representatives of American Jewish communities, activists of Russian-language Jewish youth organizations and members of previous generations, who emigrated from the USSR during the 70s.
The feeling with all of these visits is that ‘It is better one time to see than hundred times to hear’, and therefore difficult to overestimate the importance of the personal encounters these IDF officers engaged in with Russian speaking Jews wherever they live, who support Israel and the military of the Jewish state.