October - December 2006
Migdal JCC, Mazel Tov and Beitenu Centers
During the holidays of Rosh ha-Shanna, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, the friendly family of Migdal?s members went to listen to shofar in the synagogue, gathered for Kiddush at the JCC; the ceremony of Kaparot took place at various locations where Migdal membership is active: at the JCC itself, at Mazel Tov and Beitenu Center, Shorashim Jewish museum; Sukkot turned out to be very joyful not only because the huge sukkah built in the JCC?s courtyard hosted young, middle-age and elderly community members (the youngest visitor was one month old - it was the daughter of Dima Melamud) every day of the holiday, but also because of an array of activities held there (among which there was even improvised dancing), and because of special visitors that joined Migdal for one of the most meaningful Jewish holidays - a group of 45 youngsters from Israel that had come through the municipal twinning partnership Odessa - Haifa.
After their launch at the beginning of the school year in September, two new projects - Applied Computers and Decor - have been in full swing for children taking part in Beitenu Center for children at risk (working with some 130 children of 1-16 years old). The goal of the 2 new initiatives is very practical one - besides involving the kids in interesting activities and revealing their talents, to try and teach them those skills that, in the future, may be life skills - the ones that will help the young people to earn their living. First and foremost, this pertains to the teens and older children involved in the projects. Of course, for the younger ones it is also very important as long as it makes them attached to something new, thus preventing them from possible negative activities.
- The Applied Computers project is liked by all the children from 3 to 16 years old. Here they are taught the idea that a computer is not a toy (which is a very common opinion among the kids and teens), it is one of the vital realities of today?s life, and acquiring computer skills seems to be as essential as knowing how to read and write. The participants of the project are given various tasks that they first try to solve individually and then - by exchange of the solution ways and outcomes. The tasks include production of computer polygraphics like virtual postcards, applications, even mini-sites, etc.
- Decor is popular with both girls and boys. Here children from 7 to 16 years old learn how to do crochet and knitting, beads- , needle-, and clay works, etc. They make toys, purses and small bags, even various decorations for their clothes that make look these clothes original and in fashion.
Retro party for Migdal JCC activists, which took place on November 12, was organized under the roof of the JCC by members of the Students? Club. First and foremost, it was designed for the beloved grandparents and parents - middle-aged and older activists of the Community Center.
The students wanted to pay a tribute to the grown-ups and created a really entertaining party for them in retro style with dances and songs from the past. Besides the concert program, the students also made special decorations for the concert hall where the party took place, cooked sweets and refreshments, organized various quizzes, etc.
On December 20, Mazel Tov dancing group, which consists of babies, toddlers and their mothers, had a chance to once again surprise the Odessa community. The group was invited as a special guest to TV Competition of Young Talents called "Zvezdochka" ("star" in Russian). The little dancers from Mazel Tov were from 1 to 2 years old, and their performance was one of the star moments of the Competition.
The central event of the JCC and Mazel Tov & Beitenu Center?s life in December was Chanukah. Various activities that were devoted to this holiday may be considered parts of Chanukah-2006 marathon.
- A very special event, which was held within Chanukah celebration, was Bar- and Bat-Mitzvah ceremony of a group of Migdal and Beitenu boys and girls that had come out of age. Together with some children from Chabbad children?s homes, they first had the ceremony in the synagogue, and then a special dinner in Rozmarin Kosher restaurant. The idea to have such a special event, which could unite the children of the JCC and Beitenu in one of the most special events of their life - arose during the time of the summer day camp. At that time, the camp was visited by a couple from NY City Dina and Jonathan Leader. The Leaders were very impressed with the work of the JCC and expressed their wish to contribute to some special event. Then it was decided that it would be Bar- and Bat-mitzvah. So, the preparations started early in advance and culminated during Chanukah.
Besides the main "heroes" of the event, the synagogue also hosted their friends, Migdal and Beitenu staff and program participants, community activists. For one of those present ones - Leonid Dusman - to see his grandson walking up to bima was extremely exciting for, according to the Nazi plans in 1941 when Odessa was occupied, neither Leonid himself nor any of his children or grandchildren were ever supposed to come out of age. According to these plans, they were supposed to disappear or never appear in life. Leonid was 11 years old at the time of Odessa occupation. Having survived the horrors of ghettos and hardships of post-war time, he is now very active in researching of Holocoust documents. His son and daughter-in-law, his grandson are regular participants of the JCC programs. And right before that Bar-mitzvah day, Leonid got one more grandson.
The program of the dinner had been prepared very thoroughly. Forty children with parents, teachers from Chabbad school, Migdal and Beitenu staff were present at the event. The hall of the restaurant was all in decorations, one of the corners had a table with exhibition of arts and crafts that had been made by the children. In addition to that, actors of Migdal Or Jewish Community Theatre produced their program during the dinner.
After lighting Chanukah candles, there was a Chanukah quiz, a game with special prizes for Bar- and Bat-mitzvah celebrants, congratulations by the Rabbi and community leaders, short drama performances by children, a big cake and, finally - most meaningful gifts for the occasion - Torah for the boys and candlesticks for the girls, and Hebrew dictionaries for all of them - everything to fulfill the main commandments of grown-up life.
- On Sunday, December 24, Chanukah holiday in Mazel Tov center became a real miracle for the kids, their parents and also teachers and staff of the Center. The children sang songs in 3 languages, recited poems about Chanukah, presented new dances; there were games and quizzes, competitions, sweets, gifts and, of course, lighting Chanukah candles.
- Youth Chanukah party was held in an original way under the name of "Hippy Chanukah". The youngsters continued their tradition to have thematic parties similar to retro party in November and, this time, decided that the meaning of Chanukah holiday - holiday of light and freedom - could be somehow connected to the motto of the hippies, as the movement that called for liberation from the old views and freedom. Of course, the connection was rather conditional and just helped to have an interesting and unusual celebration, though not breaking the rules of the holiday. After the seventh Chanukah candle was lit, the party began. All those who joined the holiday, were not spectators but took an active part in the games and presentations. There were interesting competitions, singing and dancing, even a drama performance based on a child?s fairy-tale but produced in a humorous style.
In October-December 2006, Shorashim Museum conducted its regular research and educational activities, as well as prepared and held the most important event of the year - 5th International Scientific Conference "Odessa and Jewish Civilization":
- The key element of the Museum?s work during the fall was preparation for the 5th Jubilee International Scientific Conference "Odessa and Jewish Civilization" devoted to the 185th birthday anniversary of Lev Pinsker.
The Conference took place on October 23-25, 2006, with participation of Odessa Society of the Jewish Culture, Odessa National University, Israeli Cultural Center in Odessa, Judaica Institute of Kiev, Center "Petersburgh Judaica", Odessa Literary Museum, and State Archives of Odessa Region.
This year, the Conference was devoted to the 185th anniversary of Leo Pinsker, Odessa doctor and journalist, one of the founders of Zionism movement. Due to the activities of such famous Jewish personalities as Dr. Pinsker, Ahad ha-Am, Byalik, Dizengoff, Zhabotinsky, Klauzner, Ravnitsky and others, Odessa has become world-wide known as a center of Jewish life in late 19th - early 20th centuries. Odessa was called "Gates of Zion" first of all thanks to the fact that it was there, where "Committee on Assistance to Jews Settling in Syria and Palestine" was organized and actively functioned. In addition to that, the ideas of Odessa Zionists also had a tremendous influence on the Jewish history and history of the State of Israel. All these facts have established the basis for the themes and goals of October 2006 Conference in Odessa.
Issues of development of Zionist ideas among Odessa intelligentsia, in the context of their existence, fight and collaboration with other Jewish and non-Jewish movements, life and activities of Leo Pinsker, Zionism in literature, etc. were discussed at the presentations, round table discussions, and other activities of the Conference.
The Conference involved historians, researchers, journalists, musicians and students from the local establishments and those from abroad like Russia, Germany, Israel. These were presenters and audience from Odessa Music Academy, Odessa National University, Odessa Municipal Library, Literary Museum, Odessa Cultural Fund, "St. Petersburgh Judaica Center", Kiev Judaica Institute, Poltava Institute of Economics and Law, Sumy State University, Lvov International Center of Holocaust; coordinators and participants of museum programs from the JCCs and Heseds of Southern Ukraine (Sevastopol, Nikolaev) also presented reports and lead discussions at the Conference.
Migdal JCC Methodological Center
The Methodological center of Migdal JCC has been carrying out its activities in the following directions:
- Preparations for Migdal?s seminars, conferences and festivals - first and foremost, October Fifth Jubilee International Conference "Odessa and Jewish Civilization".
- Collaborative work with Southern Ukraine region (consultations in the area of education, upbringing of young community members; joint meetings and seminars; exchange of professionals and educators on a regular basis).
- Publications: right before the Conference, Migdal managed to publish the first issues of "Guide to Jewish Odessa" - a book in Russian that dwells on the historic places in the city, famous landmarks, personalities, history of the community?s revival, contemporary life. The book is in Russian but current work on its English version is in progress now.
The guide is claimed to be the first edition of such kind that combined the history of the old and contemporary community of Odessa. Illustrations to the articles and a map with landmarks make the guide interesting and useful for not only guests of the city but even Odessans, Jews and non-Jews.