Major Genesis Philanthropy Group Grant Boosts Brandeis’ Institute for Russian Jewry

Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG) and Brandeis University have signed a multi-million dollar partnership agreement to support the further development and expansion of the Brandeis-Genesis Institute for Russian Jewry (BGI). BGI’s goal is to inspire the next generation of Russian-speaking Jewish community leaders, fortified by Jewish knowledge, systematic understanding of Russian Jewry and a commitment to Jewish people.

A grant from Genesis Philanthropy Group that is part of the agreement will help the institute, founded by GPG and Brandeis University in 2009, enhance its existing educational initiatives and develop innovative ways of serving the needs and aspirations of the Russian Jewish community in North America and around the world. Since its inception, BGI has made a significant difference in the lives of many young people and has brought the Russian-speaking Jewish community to the forefront of attention in many communal conversations.

The next phase of BGI’s effort includes a heightened emphasis on scholarship and teaching in a historical, cultural, and contemporary context about the Russian-speaking Jewish community. Initiatives in the research area will include scholars-in-residence, a series of publications and research grants for graduate students and established scholars.

“The development of strong involvement and leadership in the Jewish community among Russian speakers depends on a broad base of knowledge,” Brandeis President Frederick M. Lawrence said. “Brandeis is in an exceptionally strong position to construct and disseminate this base of knowledge, building on its tradition of excellence in Jewish studies, the study of Eastern Europe, and research into contemporary Jewish life.”

“The impact of this initiative has already reached well beyond the campus of Brandeis University,” said Stan Polovets, Co-founder and CEO of Genesis Philanthropy Group. ”We hope that this expansion will continue to strengthen the impact of GPG’s work in Russian-speaking Jewish communities around the world through reinforcing their leadership, deepening their knowledge and helping shape their future”.

In partnership with the Office of High School Programs at Brandeis, BGI will continue engaging Russian-speaking high-school students from North America, Germany, Israel and the Former Soviet Union through its “BIMA” and “Genesis” summer programs on campus for high school students and through year-round projects that nurture a sense of Jewish peoplehood by creating an international network of young community leaders and activists.

More than 150 high-school students from North America, Israel and the former Soviet Union have taken part in the summer programs, exploring their Jewish identity, fostering creative talents and broadening intellectual horizons while creating lifelong friendships and a sense of belonging to the global Jewish community.

In partnership with the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership program, BGI has trained talented Russian-speaking professionals who are now serving the needs of the Jewish community through major Jewish organizations in North America.

Undergraduate fellows have gained valuable Jewish knowledge and leadership skills that will help them become future leaders of the Jewish community. BGI fellows are already making substantial contributions to the Jewish community on campus and beyond through impactful community projects. As BGI alumni start paving the way to successful careers in finance, medical fields and science, they continue their involvement in the life of the Jewish community in North America.

The institute now will move to double the ranks of its undergraduate fellows, to 15 in each undergraduate class. “We aim to nurture among these fellows a cadre of young innovative, energetic, and effective community leaders, and to encourage them to remain engaged with us when they become alumni, transforming the BGI fellowship into a lifelong educational journey,” said BGI executive director Victor Vitkin.

The cultural and educational programming of the BGI brought people of various ages to a number of engaging events, strengthening the Russian Jewish community of Boston and enlarging the BGI community.

“Looking back at the first three years of this effort, we see the promise of a bright future for the Institute and for its role as a major presence in the Russian-speaking Jewish community,” said Ilia Salita, Executive Director, Genesis Philanthropy Group North America. ”Looking forward, we envision a new, re-engineered and re-energized BGI that will leave a significant mark with its programs, positioning hundreds of its alumni to become leading thinkers, professionals and lay leaders in the community”.