October 22, 2014 – One of Moscow’s largest Jewish community centers, the Nikitskaya, was renamed today in honor of Ralph I. Goldman, one of the Jewish world’s most accomplished leaders who died, at 100, in Jerusalem two weeks ago. The institution – which opened in 2001 with support from the the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and caters to hundreds of members of the Russian capital’s bustling Jewish community each month – was rededicated as the Ralph I. Goldman Nikitskaya Jewish Cultural Center in a ceremony on October 22.
The Ralph I. Goldman Nikitskaya Jewish Cultural Center, located in a 19th century mansion in the center of Moscow, offers a wide array of activities to local Jews of all ages. One of its keystone programs is Tapuz nursery and pre-school, consistently ranked among the top 10 such facilities in the Russian capital. Other activities open to adolescents and adults include various Jewish classes, lectures, concerts and gatherings for holidays and special occasions. When it opened in 2001, the 1,493 square meter JCC was a prominent sign of the remarkable revival of a Jewish community that had been oppressed for decades under Soviet rule.
Goldman – who was born in the Russian Empire in 1914 and whose family emigrated to the U.S. soon afterwards – cared deeply about the fate of Jews in that part of the world. He won a writing contest for an essay he penned on the creation of a Jewish territory by the Soviets in Birobidzhan in 1937. During the 1980s and 1990s, he was a top negotiator dealing with Soviet authorities on lifting the ban on the emigration of Jews from the country and in ensuring JDC’s reentry into the Soviet Union to care for Jews in need and foster Jewish life.
Russia is home today to an estimated 600,000 Jews. JDC works across Russia taking care of tens of thousands Jewish elderly and poor families and innovating Jewish community life and training new generations of Jewish leaders since the fall of Communism. JDC supports 55 JCCs in Russia, including the one in Moscow that will be named after Goldman. They offer a wealth of activities and services to the local Jewish community including family camps, informal educational opportunities and leadership programs.