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26.06.2013 14:42

How we lived through the year 2011

Activity report of JCC "Migdal" for the year 2011

• 3692 guests of Jewish Museum, 400 excursions. Museum was visited by guests from 26 different countries.
• 324 study hours were spent on Local history, ethnography, Jewish history and ethics, literature and art.
• Members of Jewish library: 990 people.
• 1720 study hours of Jewish education for all ages
• 3460 study hours in the art groups of Migdal center
• Organization and conducting of 6 art exhibitions prepared by School of Jewish Art.
• Monthly participants of Migdal’s regular programs – 860 families
• 6 thematic editions of Jewish magazine for all “Migdal Times”
• 300 000 visits to Migdal’s website
• “Beitenu” center for families at risk – 120 families
• Number of study hours in Beitenu center - 212

- Subscription to the Jewish Magazine “Migdal Times” and increase of editions with support from JHF.
- Start of the sport section Krav Maga
- Start of the educational project for businessmen “Torah with tea” – 15 people
- Literary, musical and theatre presentation of "Migdal Times" magazine

- Conducting 19-th Birthday of Migdal. Celebration for all ages – 420 people

The entire month of January was devoted in Migdal and its centers (Mazel Tov, Beitenu, Migdal-Shorashim Museum of History of Odessa Jews) to preparations for the 19th anniversary of the JCC’s establishment. As in previous years, Migdal staff and participants chose a very original style of the celebration – this time it was held under “mafia” theme, with the main idea that Migdal is found almost everywhere in the city and its members are from numerous organizations and parts of the city of Odessa. So, the entire scenario and all the decorations were worked out in accordance with that style and the main part of the celebration – that for ages from teens up to 120 – was realized as a “mafia” style performance in the premises of one of the cinema clubs of Odessa on the central promenade – Deribasovskaya Street. A special intro to that performance was children’s holiday – the one that involved kids from Mazel Tov Center and was held at Beit Grand JCC.

In the morning of February 6, some 300 children and their parents filled in the lobby and concert hall of Beit Grand. The youngest actress that “went out” in the arms of her mother to the stage on that day was only one month old. She was part of the dozen actors’ dancing group that consisted of babies with mothers. The kids danced and sang, played musical instruments, recited their own poems. Totally, four dancing and vocal groups from the early age department of Mazel Tov Center presented some 7 mini-performances. The “graduates” of Mazel Tov demonstrated “Yiddish” drama piece. One of the star events of the day was a defile of the children “Prima Fashion 2011”. In the lobby, a big “tree” with Mazel Tov faces as flowers on the tree’s branches captured the attention of all those coming. The panno had been made by the children in advance and was a source of special pride for their parents and teachers.

The evening part of the celebration capped off that day and brought together the most active members and closest friends of Migdal JCC. Singing and music could, probably, be heard not only inside of the cinema club but also along Deribasovskaya Street of Odessa.

- Shabbaton-conference for teenagers and youth “Phycology and Torah” - 42 people

The main goal of this event was to offer another educational insight into the understanding of Torah principles and their implication in the life of the modern Jewry, especially – for its younger generation.
The geography of the project was rather vast and brought together 42 members of Jewish communities of Odessa, Belaya Tserkov (Ukraine), Kiev, Simferopol, Sevastopol and Moscow.

Reports were structured into four major themes:

- Psychology and Torah: Partners or Rivals
- Development of Personality as per Torah and Psychology
- Mind. Emotions. Body
- Influence of Judaism (Torah) on the Behavior of Modern Human Being.

The format of the classes varied from lectures to round tables, hot discussions, roles playing and sketches. A training session in which two groups of “psychologists” and “rabbis” suggested their ways of addressing various issues in modern life of the Jewish community from the point of view of Torah and psychology turned out to evoke special interest on the part of the audience and facilitators.

The profound lectures by two special speakers – visiting Prof. Geller and Chief Rabbi of Odessa and Southern Ukraine Rabbi Wolf – added the final pieces to the puzzle on the complicated topic that, according to the feedback of the participants, could be developed at future educational events as well. Shabbanon was conducted wit support from JHF.


- Activities for Purim community celebration – 400 people

For 83 year-old Fira that knock at the door in the morning of March 16 was quite expected – it was the usual time when her home care worker from Hesed Shaarey Tzion would come to help with house chores, cooking a meal for the lady and just talking about the latest news. On that day though Fira was surprised to see a group of little kids and some grown-ups with them. “We have come to wish you happy Purim!” the kids exclaimed in chorus the moment Fira unlocked the door to her apartment in an old two-storeyed building located in the historical center of Odessa.

That visit was the final part of the whole set of preparations that families from Migdal JCC, Mazel Tov and Beitenu centers of Odessa were involved in for several weeks prior to Purim. The families collected funds and purchased holiday sets for some 42 Jewish orphans, children at-risk and elderly. The holiday sets were all tailored to the specific needs of each person. They included food stuffs, hygienic things, toys, etc. Each gift also included a personalized Purim card that had been made by the children and parents.

“I can still remember the hamentashen that my Mom would make for Purim when I was a little girl. They were so tasty. But these ones are just great as well!” Fira mentioned when the children presented her with a big shelokhmones and the hamentashen they had made under the supervision of their mothers in the kitchen of Mazel Tov Center. For most of the kids that was their first experience in making the sweets and for all of them – making a special mitzvah by visiting a lonely elderly person on the joyful holiday of Purim.

Fira shared with the visitors her story of life. She was born in Odessa and was still a high school student when World War II broke out. She and her family were evacuated to Kazakhstan, but with the liberation of Odessa in 1944, Fira was able to return home. Fira enrolled in an engineering college, but she had to drop out to earn a living. In 1947, she started working in the district department of finances and retired in 1983. Today the lady is completely alone since her husband passed away several years ago and the couple had never had children. For her, suffering from numerous ailments, that visit was extremely important and so much reminded her of the childhood days.

“We did not have the happiness of practicing our Jewishness so openly. So, take this great chance now, enjoy it and thank you so much for coming to me today. The Purimshpiel you showed me today, the songs and poems are the things I will remember for ever. This was so unexpected, as if I had been to my Jewish family again”, Fira wiped tears of happiness off her eyes when the visitors were leaving her apartment.

After another visit – that to a family couple of WWII veterans – the children hurried to Migdal for Megilat Esther and a mega celebration. The youngest actors – those of 3, 5, 9 and 10 months old – were held in hands by their mothers and demonstrated the childhood years of Purim heroes. Pre-school children performed a drama piece in the masks that they had made themselves in arts and crafts classes at Mazel Tov. A puppet show, humorous sketches, jokes and finally – clowns – filled in the day of March 16.

As noted by some of the parents, that children’s holiday was even more unforgettable than their own celebration the day before, the latter one held in a Caucasian style, also with performances by Migdal’s vocal, dancing and drama groups, joyful competitions and quizzes and … traditional Lehaim.

- Start of the project “Matanot lev'ionim”. Members of Migdal community are forming presents for poor families from community – 80 presents


- Seder Pesach for community – 120 people

For Migdal JCC the events planned for Pesach celebrations could hardly fit the eve. Everything casually started long before the holiday with the preparations of the every age group of the community. Both “Mazl Tov” Center and Migdal premises were decorated beforehand with the hand-made masterpieces of the members of Migdal Community to honor the exodus of the Jewish People out of the Egyptian slavery.

The preparations began with the grand cleaning from “Chametz” the facilities related to Migdal JCC. All the volunteers succeeded with it after a whole day of thorough and concentrated work.

The line of the events planned has started with the Seder Pesach for children and their parents at “Mazl Tov” Center. Just on the next day a full bus of volunteers went on a picturesque trip to Sofievskiy Park at the town of Uman. All the way the group sang songs in Hebrew and even in Yiddish. The photo-sessions had started just on the entrance to the park to exercise in taking photos as later the group enjoyed the sceneries of the park and had an unforgettable boat trip along the underground river in the company of the Uman Jews.

Meanwhile the Migdal Community initiated a great Seder Pesach for the rest of the families at the concert hall of Migdal that has traditionally started on the returning of the men from the Synagogue. Songs, traditional stories and legends, historical excurses and surely traditional Pesach dishes, all the present got plenty of that.

Next morning Mazl Tov Center initiated a variety of events for children to strengthen the educative compound of the tradition. The activities included puzzles with the attributes of the holiday, various quizzes devoted to the Pesach history, magic labyrinths, symbolical game “Memory” and the most exciting – Food game where the participants were to separate food for Pesach table – kosher and not kosher.

- Literary, musical and theatre presentation of Migdal Times magazine


- Victory Day celebration. Greeting to veterans, presents
- Weekend travels – 80 people
- Outreach activity on Lag ba-Omer – 150
- Night in Jewish Museum – an open-air event in the yard of Odessa Jewish Museum that consists of various fairs, exhibitions, performances, etc. – 140 people

It was not the first time for Shorashim Museum to be part of the city-wide “Night at Museum” holiday, so all those who had heard something about the museum before were very much looking forward to the event. Their expectations were not broken – Shorashim had prepared quite a number of surprises, just as leaders from other organizations like Migdal JCC and Mazel Tov Center that were active in the preparatory work.

The main motto of the night was to offer only interactive activities and the original scenario presupposed that the visitors would come and leave, thus letting a new group of visitors enter the Museum. Still, everyone who came that night decided to stay for as long as possible, so the facility was literally packed and full of not only people but emotions as well.

Every single room and corner of the Museum would call for something interesting. These were:
- Photo exhibition “Odessa at Night”
- Demonstration of a documentary about Odessa in 1930ies
- Odessa myths
- Game devoted to Odessa monuments
- Interactive test on Odessa streets and their Jewish past
- Game focused on knowledge in literature about Odessa
- Chasidic maisy (“stories”) on-line and others.

The ceremony of giving out awards and prizes for the games and the event that capped off everything – “Odessa Yesterday and Today” movie – was moved out of the facility and took place in the courtyard of the Museum. It looked like the other inhabitants did not mind it in spite of time and many would look out of their windows to join the festivity in some way.

- Town of Craftsmen – an open air Fair of Jewish crafts and a Final concert of all art groups of JCC Migdal – 300 people

Migdal JCC of Odessa made the holiday of Lag ba Omer a memorable event for the entire city. This time its form was very original – the Center organized the Festival called “City of Craftsmen” in collaboration with Odessa Art Museum. The Festival took place in the spacious courtyard of the Museum on May 22 and afternoon rainy weather did not prevent hundreds of Jewish community members and Odessans join the holiday.

It was widely advertised in the local media that the Festival would offer master classes and arts sessions in the following areas:
- Making clothes and accessories of fabric
- Decorations – fur and laces
- Aquarelle fantasies
- Poi performance
- Jewish comics
- Plasticine world
- Balloons’ fairytales
- School of perfumery design

Such an interesting offer could not be unnoticed by children, teenagers and parents, so the Museum yard was full of people on that May day. “We have made this holiday together on the eve of the Day of Museums. I think it is a very real holiday that our museum and Migdal JCC have come up with”, Director of Odessa Art Museum Natalia Polishchuk noted in one of the interviews for the local Odessa newspaper.

The halls of the Museum were not empty either: there one could see works by children of the “School of Jewish painting” at Migdal, paintings devoted to Victory day from the Art Studio of Claudia Bogolyubova, an exhibition of rare dolls from the “Kandinsky” Art Center.

“Jewish Cuisine” fair was also one of the popular corners in the yard of the Museum – anyone who stopped there could try Jewish dishes and also learn how to make them.

The singing, dancing and drama groups of the JCC demonstrated their artistic talents to the audience and, hopefully, ignite the interest of the unaffiliated community members to their Jewish identity. At least, this was one of the purposes of the event that Migdal JCC had set up.


- Premier of the play “Diagnosis: Jewish Blood” (by E. Keret) performed by family theatre “Pur le Chance” for 400 people
- Recording and presentation of solo audio CD performed by Youth vocal ensemble “Esh ba Lev” – 120 people
- Final concert of Migdal’s art groups – 300 people
- Community celebration of Shavuot – 100people
- Literary, musical, theatre presentation of Migdal Times magazine – 100 people


- Group from Migdal is sent to a joint Birthright trip Taglit EZRA – Migdal – 15people
- Reconstruction of the heating system in the JCC’s building


- Book presentation by Publishing Home “Knizhniki” – 120 people
- Summer Family retreat “Halom-15”. Topic: “Adventures of Jews in the desert” – 144 people

August 2011 marked 15th year when Migdal JCC of Odessa has been holding its annual summer family retreats for regular visitors and new comers. The theme of the retreat was “Incredible Adventures of Jews in a Desert”, so its structure was designed accordingly: to feel the difficulties, to enjoy the miracles and to learn the lessons the Jews have learned through their history. All the activities fit into seven days only, so each day was full and lasted more than 12 hours.

This time the retreat gathered some 144 participants, out of which 66 were new. That fact was quite an innovation for Migdal as, regularly, the number of new comers was deliberately lower. The intention this time was to make as wider outreach as possible, due to the fact that Migdal’s retreats are considered very popular and usually cannot host everyone wishing to join.

The youngest children were only three months old and the total number of them made the retreat’s organizers form a separate team – babies and mothers.

Some of the campers were from overseas (Isarel, Germany, USA, Russia), most of them – from Odessa. Special visitors (that held their learning sessions for the children and parents) were Dr. Aharon Weiss and Rabbi of Moscow Religious Community Iosef Khersonsky.

Each day of the retreat introduced a miracle the Jews have experienced in their history in an interesting way. There was a tour of settlements of Jews in the desert, oasis party with “jeep safari” (where the animals were little kids in specially designed costumes), a fashion party, etc. Prior to Shabbat, a culinary midrash took place, at which not only grown-ups but also kids demonstrated their cooking talents. All the children baked their own real khalot. The most interesting recipes were later included into the Jewish calendar that Migdal publishes before Rosh-ha-Shanna holiday.

On the final day of the Retreat there was a special ceremony called “Golden Gamal”. There the teams presented the movies they had made about their time in the retreat. The best movies got the prizes. Still, the most memorable prizes were new friends, impressions and knowledge that the campers got at the retreat. As for Migdal’s professional team, they decided to have some summation of the retreat later – during Open Door Day on September 11, which would offer a spectrum of prospective classes for the new school year at Migdal and a post-Retreat party on the boat.

- Shabbaton on the wheels – 140 people. Shabbaton was conducted wit support from JHF.

Shabbaton for all ages was dedicated to wonders that accompanied the Jews in the desert. Friday morning was devoted to manna - one of the wonders that accompanied the Jews in the desert. Groups discussed this topic, as well as, the subject of Jewish food and kashrut. Each group was preparing their own meal for Shabbat and its presentation. Saturday morning was devoted to the miracle of a serpent of brass, through which G-d healed Jews after the plague. And this day was conditionally named Health Day. But because other Shabbath doesn’t encouraged participation in sports, we were engaged in intellectual sports - quizzes. And in the evening “oasis party” waited for participants at the source, who accompanied the Jews in the desert - the well of Miriam, another miracle.


- Postcamp reunion with photo and video presentations, games, communication – 100 people

The second Sunday of September 2011 became very busy for the staff, volunteers and activists of Migdal JCC. They realized their plan as to making this day open for the entire community of Odessa and also – summing up the results of the summer retreat.

Many guests of the event, including not only from Odessa but those from the US, Germany and Israel, joined the day full of activities. The latter ones were so numerous and various that some of them were scheduled out of the JCC – in Odessa streets (like interactive tours of Malaya Arnautskaya Street for children) and even on a big boat – it was the place for all those that had been associated with the past retreat to get re-connected again and to build new plans.

Prior to visiting the JCC, the guests were “treated” with new issues of Migdal Times monthly and then, based on their interests, could try hobby groups’ sessions: master classes in Sand Animation Studio (new project), Israel and Contemporary dances, Games and Intellectual Center for school children, library projects, classes for children, computer courses, Arts and Crafts, painting, aerobics, etc.

While the kids enjoyed their, full of surprises, tour of Malaya Arnautskaya Street, the grown-ups were at the “real” tour of Jewish Odessa. The tour was, in fact, an advertisement of one of the projects of Migdal – courses of Tour Guides of Odessa.

The time on the boat officially called “Post – Camp” included summation of the recent retreat’s activities, presentation of the movies that had been made by the campers and depicted their 7 days’ life there, and a disco.

Some 53 new members of the community signed up for 2011-2012 year at Migdal during the Open Door Day, while that number is seen as one of the first results of the Open Door and many more people are expected to join later in the fall months.

- Anti-terror campaign 9/11 – 100 people

- Expedition around Ukrainian shtetls and Kivrei Tzadikim – 30 people

- Started working after-school group for first and second graders – 25 people


- Art groups from “Migdal” participated in the city Ethnical Festival “Danube Art” – 150 people

On October 7-9 Migdal JCC had a chance to take part in another celebration (this time – city-wide) – Festival “The Wreath of the Danube”. The Festival had its purpose to demonstrate the multi-cultured character of the population of the city and region, to provide the citizens and guests of Odessa with another chance to enjoy the various cultures and traditions. The Jewish community was presented by a number of singing and dancing groups from Migdal and Mazel Tov Centers. Jewish songs and dances of the kids with their mothers and without them did not leave anyone indifferent.

- 4th School of Jewish Guide had started its work – 30 people

- Hebrew ulpan for grown-ups started its work – 12 people

- Celebrating High Holidays by community – 300 people

The sukka in the courtyard of Migdal JCC was home to not only numerous activities but, in fact, the first place for presentation of the newly launched program – School of Madrichim. Its members are those teenagers that served as madrichim in the recent Migdal-held Halom summer retreat. The teenagers were so much enthusiastic about playing leadership roles in the Retreat that they craved for continuation of that kind of education and practice. Thus, during Sukkot they were offered such a chance of holding funny and serious competitions and games for little kids that were brought there by their parents to Migdal’s sukka.

- Started working Intellectual club for school age children – 20 people

As soon as the new school year began for all the children in Odessa, Mazel Tov leaders realized that their “graduates” – kids that left Mazel Tov due to their age – needed some reunion and not to be done once. Thus, a decision was adopted to start a new program – Migdal-Junior. This program takes place under the roof of Migdal JCC but is open to children – former Mazel Tov participants. For four days in a week after school and on Sunday morning the children get assistance with doing their schoolwork, learning computer science, Hebrew, Logics and English, singing and dancing, producing drama sketches.


- Organization Limmud FSU 2011 in Odessa – 130 participants from Migdal

- Shabbaton for families with kids of pre-school age – 40 people. Shabbaton was conducted wit support from JHF. Shabbaton for young families was devoted to discussion of 39 species mlahot, weekly Parshah and the relationships between children and parents in the family as a whole, and in a Jewish family in particular

- Shabbaton for families at risk. Shabbaton was conducted wit support from JHF. Shabbat for families at risk was on the theme of our foremother Sarah, the relationship between parents and children. Shabbaton was attended by 30 people - families with children of secondary school age.

- International Day of Jewish Knowledge – Jewish movies, lection, art classes for 100 people

- Started working with State Archive on Transnistria Ghetto lists in the frame of the project with Yad va-Shem museum


- Chanukah Festival in Odessa – 400 people
- Preparation to the First international film festival of Jewish shorts “KinoMig”
- Preparation to the 20th anniversary of JCC “Migdal” center. Rehearsal of the Birthday program by Migdal Or theatre
- Preparation to the children play on Holocaust “Kids and dogs are searching for us” in the frame of the project with Yad va-Shem museum

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