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icjw president visits hava russia

ICJW President Robyn Lenn was privileged during November 2016 to visit ICJW 's affiliate organisation in Moscow, Russia - HAVA RUSSIA   - on her way to the ICJW European Regional Conference and Executive meeting in Madrid.  

I spent two very busy days with my HAVA hosts - President Irina Shcherban and ICJW Vice President Valeria Marek. They had supplied me with two capable young escorts, Sasha T. and Valeria's son Julian, who ensured I travel safely through the snow, ice and rain and manage to arrive on time for the various appointments set up for my visit.  

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The HAVA Russia organisation has many branches around the country. HAVA has a strong relationship with the Progressive Judaism movement in Russia - both its leaders, Irina and Valeria,   are professionally involved with the Progressive movement.  

I visited two HAVA venues in Moscow and was most impressed with the staff of specialists who organise the many programs offered by the organisation. The outstanding handiwork, the many specialist rooms within the buildings and the dedication of the long-term members of HAVA who run these programs was inspiring. The spirit of Judaism was evident in all the work offered by the organisation, although non-Jews are also encouraged to enjoy the benefits of the programs.  

As I had requested, appointments were set up for me to meet with a few leaders of the community. I visited Progressive Chief Rabbi Alexander Lyskovoy at the Moscow Centre for Progressive Judaism, meeting also Rabbi Leonid Bimbat and learning more about the current Jewish population within Russia.  

At the beautiful Moscow Choral Synagogue I had a    meeting with Russia's Chief Rabbi Avrum Shaevich and discussed issues such as Agunot and prenuptial contracts - both of which he regarded as not problematic in Russia.   Within the building is a small synagogue called the Georgian synagogue from the history of its founding - I was warmly welcomed by the chairman of that synagogue.  

I had an interesting meeting with the Executive Director of the Euro Asian Jewish Congress, Natasha Schmidt, in which we discussed Jewish communities within the regions we shared in common. Natasha, who works with Sara Winkowski as part of the World Jewish Congress, told me that currently perhaps sixty percent of Jewish community leaders within EAJC are women. I asked her assistance in speaking about ICJW and our wish to involve more organisations or associate members, particularly in the Asia region.  

I was taken to the Moscow Memorial Synagogue, built in memory of Jews murdered in the Shoah. The building houses two levels of Jewish museum, including a Holocaust exhibition as well as an active synagogue for prayer. It is a beautiful building, and currently two congregations hold services there at alternate times - a Progressive congregation and a Chabad congregation.   I also had the opportunity to visit the Moscow Jewish Museum and Tolerance Centre, which is an excellent extensive educational museum.  

I am very grateful to ICJW HAVA RUSSIA leaders, Irina and Valeriya, for ensuring that my two day visit as ICJW President was a valuable experience, allowing me to inform community leaders about the work of ICJW, while also learning about HAVA RUSSIA and the life of Russian Jews today.