A year in Dnepropetrovsk

An American volunteer in Ukraine

Archive for Hillel

Passover highlights

First night, first seder: There were several seders happening in the Dnepropetrovsk Jewish community, including at the JCC, at Hesed, at the Yeshiva, one prominent private seder for parents of children in the kindergarten (ages 2-5), and the VIP seder in the synagogue, which I attended as a guest of the Ben-Zvi clan. Amir, Sharon, Ori, Ido, and I sat at a table near the bimah and the Kaminetzky table (“It must be nice to have your immediate family fill an entire table,” I commented to Sharon) at this most massive seder. You have to see the Dnepropetrovsk Jewish Community website pictures to understand the scope of this monster. It was not only the largest seder I’ve attended, it was also the fastest. It was so noisy in the cavernous synagogue, with every whisper echoing off its accoustically sound walls, and even next to the rabbi and Yan, who was leading the seder, I could barely hear a thing. Given the wide scope of participants, the goal was apparently to give everyone a small taste of a seder and then get them the food. It’s a shame it went by so quickly, because I know how much preparation went into it. Yan brought in the Jewish singers from the Dnepropetrovsk opera, and the Hillel kids were recruited to serve as helpers throughout the service. They stood in strategic locations and indicated which page we were on and which vegetable was being dipped at any given time. Believe it or not, they rehearsed for this several days in a row, for hours at a time. In any event, the seder meal was absolutely spectacular. There were five or six courses, featuring herring and salmon at each course, brought out by professional (goyishe) waiters and somehow served piping hot to all 200 or 300 guests. It was quite impressive.

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Craziness and idleness

We moved. Everyone moved.

I was trying to explain the economic situation to my grandmother the other day after she told me that it couldn’t be worse than in America.

It is.

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Hanukkah

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Hanukkah in Dnepropetrovsk isn’t too different from Hanukkah in the States, really. We light the chanukkiah each night and say the brachot. We eat latkes and suvganiot (although here, suvganiot are much more popular than in the US, since “ponchiki,” as they’re called in Russian, are already a popular fried dessert). We sing songs and spin the dreidle, and although I didn’t see any gelt, I did see some Israeli dreidles that say “A great miracle happened here” instead of there.

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Oh, the weather outside is frightful

Dear Lena,

Your New Year’s plans sound really nice. Family and then friends. What more could you want? Unfortunately, I don’t have any plans yet. New Year’s is a big family holiday here. I thought I was going to go to my friend Lena’s house, since I know her mother and we get along really well, but for various reasons, it seems that I won’t be able to commandeer an invitation. My boss Amir leaves for Israel tomorrow and won’t be back for another few weeks, and although Sharon invited me over to spend New Year’s with her and the kids, she indicated that it won’t be so much fun. Ori is scared of fireworks (and people go crazy lighting their own fireworks here!), so they’ll be hiding indoors all night, and they have to go to sleep early. I’m going to a Shabbaton with Hillel kids this weekend, so we’ll see if any of them are family-less, as well. If not, I’ll think of something fun to do. I’m not the type to sit and mope, and certainly not on the biggest night of the year!

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Packing list for Hillel Shabbaton in Lecnoy

  • coat
  • scarf
  • hat
  • gloves (it’s cold out!!)
  • my badass American snowboots (I’m the only woman in all of Dnepropetrovsk who owns a pair of shoes this ugly, but it’s worth it! This morning, women in skirts and high, high stiletto heels were slipping and sliding in the snow, while I was able to run and jump comfortably through it)
  • jeans
  • 2 long sleeve shirts (although really, I’d only need one. It’s very common to wear the same outfit for many days in a row here. People don’t have that many clothes here, so they wear their Sunday best every day of the week, and if that means that they wear the same two outfits again and again, so be it)
  • sweatshirt (normally, I couldn’t wear something so informal, but this is a group of university kids drinking together in the woods. I think it’ll be fine)
  • 2 pairs of leggings
  • sports bra
  • long sleeve t-shirt (I plan on going jogging. Through the woods. In the snow. I’ll be the only one, and I’ll probably do it hung over, but I don’t care. There’s only one day a week when I’m not working during daylight hours, and therefore can jog, and I’m not giving up my Saturday run just because I’m in Lecnoy!)
  • toiletries
  • Anna Karenina
  • 2 bottles of vodka (for serious)
  • 1 carton of juice (chaser)

Metsudah

This post dates back to the 17th of November; I just now realized that I never published it! Enjoy this blast from the past…

I had heard so much about the Metsudah program in my short time here, but couldn’t really understand what made it so special. This weekend I had the chance to experience it firsthand.

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Limmud FSU 2008

Swallow's Nest, as photographed by Lena

The beautiful Swallow’s Nest in Yalta, as photographed by Lena.

view-of-the-hotel

Hotel Yalta, the site of Limmud FSU 2008

For the second time in the history of the Former Soviet Union, Jews from all over the world—from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Moldova, America, Israel, Britain, and more—gathered for a three day conference all about being Jewish, and I was fortunate enough to be a part of it.

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