Remembering the Past as I Build a New Future

By Elena Feldman

Living in Tula, Russia, I have a deep commitment and connection to my Jewish identity. I was privileged to be invited as a delegate to an international conference held in Prague, Czech Republic, on May 26-27th. The “Life with Dignity” conference was dedicated to the problems that face victims of Nazism and survivors of the Holocaust. The conference was organized by the European Shoah Legacy Institute and attended by representatives of public and government structures, nonprofit organizations and foundations from thirty-nine countries. Only two organizations represented the nonprofit sector in Russia: the Tula Regional Jewish Charitable Center “Hasdey Neshama” and Jewish Charities “Family Center” (Rostov-on-Don).

I have been immersed in the Jewish community in Tula, Russia, since childhood, and my parents and all of my grandparents were actively and openly Jewish. I first connected with Project Kesher (PK) in 1998 at age eighteen, when I participated in the organization’s Jewish programming at university. In 2002, I was hired as the Administrator of the Tula ORT-KeshnerNet Computer Center – a partnership between World ORT and Project Kesher, and one of seventeen centers in the region providing computer skills and job training. I became the project coordinator for such initiatives as “Building Civil Society through Women’s Coalitions” in 2010. Currently, I serve as PK’s Communication and Project Management Officer, responsible for such projects as “16 Days against Violence” and the International Women’s Global Seders. This activism is through a Jewish and gender lens.

Project Kesher teaches a commitment to social justice through Jewish values. I have taken this to heart and it has lead me to many places. I now sit on the Tula Jewish Council and am an active volunteer with a unique program, “Treffpunkt Dialogue,” for Holocaust survivors. The project is implemented with the financial support of the German Fund EVZ, and the Russian branch of the British fund CAF, which oversee this program. I was invited to make a presentation at the International Conference about “Treffpunkt Dialogue.”

The Conference focused on issues and problems of people who survived the Holocaust, and featured discussion about support for such people at the state level, with the help of the nonprofit sector and foundations. Successful working practices for this category of citizens in the different countries and the optimization of existing resources and capabilities were presented. All speeches repeatedly underlined the need to consolidate and optimize existing resources, which are getting scarcer, to provide good living standards for victims of Nazism and the Holocaust.

Although I was not at the conference representing Project Kesher, I never leave my PK identity behind. While there, I was able to educate the participants on PK’s work in building leadership among women and advocating for peace and stability in the region. As a proud young Jewish leader in Russia, I never forget the past as I work to build a new future.

Elena Feldman will be in New York City for Project Kesher’s Second Annual Global Day Trip on October 25, 2015. For more information about this program, please contact Rachel Lobovsky at rachel@projectkesher.org or 914-301-9450.