Princeton, New Jersey, was the scene of the Mitbachon V national retreat for young Russian-speaking Jewish adults in North America. This auspicious event took place on February 18 – 20, 2011 with more than 70 young people in attendance.
In translation from Hebrew, “Mitbachon” means “Kitchenette”, a place in a house where people gather for cooking, eating and of course for talking. Since no matter how big a house is, when there’s a social gathering, according to the Russian tradition, everyone congregates in the kitchen.
Initiated by the Jewish Agency for Israel and sponsored by and in partnership with the Genesis Philanthropy Group, the UJA-Federation of New York and Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin & Sonoma Counties, Mitbachon’s goal was to strengthen the participants’ Jewish identity and deepen their connection to Israel while also introducing them to the world of community leadership. The retreat offered the young people a platform where they could exchange ideas, build networks, initiate new partnerships and empowered them toward community involvement and activism.
The young adults at this retreat hail from the Russian-speaking population in the United States which numbers close to 1 million people today, including Canada. The largest concentration of Russian-speaking Jews lives in New York City and the greater New York area with other large concentrations residing in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Toronto.
The Russian Jewish community is one of the fastest developing and dynamic communities in the Jewish Community in North America and its members have successfully integrated into mainstream American society. Most of them, however, are not actively involved nor affiliated with the organized Jewish communal institutions and many of the young people have been assimilating into general society. The work of the Jewish Agency for the past eight years has been to coordinate the effort to reach out to these young Jews, strengthen their Jewish identity and connect to the State of Israel and to their local Jewish communities.
Remarking on Mitbachon V, Ilia Salita, Executive Director of GPG North America stated, “Genesis Philanthropy Group is excited to support Mitbachon in an effort to provide young Russian-speaking Jewish adults with a unique opportunity to connect with their peers from across the USA as they engage in interactive Jewish learning, while building an invaluable network of future community activists.”
Louisa Valitsky, the Jewish Agency’s Central Emissary for Russian Speaking Communities in North America commented that “Mitbachon is a special weekend retreat whereby the participants learn about Jewish culture and heritage, establish a joint dialogue about Jewish identity and simultaneously create personal relationships with young people from other Jewish communities. This retreat is designed especially for young, educated adults in their 20’s and 30’s and who represent the next generation in their respective communities”.