Once Upon a December…

In the spirit of December and the winter season, here is a clip from one of my favorite childhood fairy tales, Anastasia: 

There was always something magical about the story of Anastasia, a young woman taking on the world to find her true identity. Not a very subtle metaphor on how I view my current situation. Of course, I don’t actually think that in this one year I will find my identity, identity develops throughout a person’s entire life. However, I am learning more about myself and the world around me on this crazy ride.

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The Chronicles of Kiev

Recently I returned from a trip to Ukraine’s capital city, Kiev. I have been very fortunate in my life to be able to travel, especially to European cities, and I can firmly say that Kiev has been one of my favorites thus far. In a previous blog post I’ve mentioned that Kharkov has a less-than-glamorous Soviet vibe to it, alternatively Kiev feels modern as any Western European city. The city center is filled with hip restaurants, trendy stores and large-name brands, internationally recognized hotels, actual English-speakers, progressive gay couples, and, of course, a McDonalds on virtually every block. I do not want to reduce Kharkov to a city stuck in the Soviet Era, since there is so much more to it, however a part of me was relieved to be somewhere that ever so slightly felt familiar.

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The Role of Young Adults

MEA and AJT

There are several layers to the Jewish community in Kharkov, and where I found I spend most of my time has been with the Young Jewish Association (MEA), which coordinates events and programs in JCC Beit Dan. MEA staff also assist in coordinating the teen movement, Active Jewish Teens (AJT), where the majority of my energy and personal mission in Ukraine has been focused on. What I found to be the most striking is the commitment of not only the MEA staff to Jewish programming, but the enormous commitment of the volunteers as well. Virtually every day (including weekends) you can find both MEA young staff and volunteers to be in the JCC Beit Dan, creating a very tight-knit team. Very fortunately for me, they accepted me as a fellow colleague as well as a close friend. Through the help of both the MEA team and the JDC, I’ve been able to work directly with AJT and become a staff madricha (counselor).

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Posted in AJT, Community, Holidays, JDC, Jewish, Kharkov, Lviv, MEA, Seminars, Travel | 1 Comment

JDC Featured Story: Returning to Their Roots with the Global Jewish Service Corps

The following was taken from the JDC website

September 17, 2015

When Karin Goitman of Cincinnati, Ohio, told her Ukrainian-born parents she would spend a year in Ukraine, they were a bit surprised.

After all, neither of them had visited the country since they left in 1990.

“For them to have somebody going back is like, ‘OK…,’” said the 22-year-old college graduate. “But they understand it’s for a year. I think they think it’s pretty cool.” Continue reading

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No Bears in Kharkov

The First Few Days

I have been in Ukraine for two weeks now and still have not seen one bear running around on the streets. I’m not sure whether I’m more relieved or disappointed. Coming from the United States, Ukraine feels like a distant land filled with civil war and economic distress, and not to underplay these characteristics, which are very true, Ukraine is well-developed and modern in many regards as well. However, after two weeks to give a well-thought-out analysis of the country and its people would be presumptuous of me, as much as my Liberal Arts degree back home is begging me to do so, I will refrain from it, at least for the time being.

What I can tell you about Ukrainians  Continue reading

Posted in Community, Introduction, JDC, Jewish, Kharkov | 2 Comments

A Departure or Return?

At the age of 22 my mother left the Former Soviet Union, the part that is now Western Ukraine, to make an Aliya with my father to Israel, and 25 years later neither of them has been back. Now, at the age of 22, I am going to Ukraine for the very first time. Talk about a full circle experience.

Naturally, it was difficult to say goodbye to my family and friends back in the United States, however this is the right time to leave and an interesting time to be in Eastern Ukraine. I have heard a lot of wonderful things about Kharkov, and I cannot wait to discover the Jewish community there and begin this journey.

One year. That’s not a long commitment, but I think I’ll get a good taste of what it is like. I’m so stoked to finally arrive in Ukraine, it’s been a long journey just to get to this point.

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