New Initiative to Strengthen Jewish Identity for Young FSU Jews Launched in Israel

Program participants volunteering at a home for the elderly in Beer Sheva; photo courtesy Naftali Philipson.
Program participants volunteering at a home for the elderly in Beer Sheva; photo courtesy Nachshon Philipson.

The Genesis Philanthropy Group, Masa Israel Journey, and Israeli Roots Odyssey (known as Masa Yisraeli in Hebrew) have  launched a new initiative to strengthen the Jewish identity of young Jews from the former Soviet Union and to deepen their connections to Israel.  The initiative is based on the Israeli Roots Odyssey model that includes a weeklong journey dedicated to familiarizing participants with Israel and its society, in the course of which participants will explore their Jewish identity in an educational and experiential manner and will also discover their personal connections to the Jewish people, to the Land of Israel, and to Jewish heritage.  The program’s pilot was launched on October 22nd and involves 220 young people from throughout the former Soviet Union.

The experience began with a hike through Israel’s Negev Desert and reached its peak in Jerusalem. The program included volunteering in Beer Sheva and meetings with Israelis, including immigrants from the former Soviet Union who have successfully integrated into a range of fields.

Following the pilot’s conclusion, Sana Britavsky, Executive Director of Genesis Philanthropy Group in Israel, told eJP: “There’s a saying in Russian “Pervyi blin komom” (“First pancake always goes bad”). Well, in this case I am happy to say this is definitely not true. The pilot exceeded our expectations, and while we are still evaluating the results, I can say that, if all partners are interested in learning from this experience and to move forward, Genesis will be happy to join the effort.”