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,
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.
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,
professionally involved with the Progressive movement.
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
were set up for me to meet with a few leaders of the community. I visited
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.
beautiful Moscow Choral Synagogue
I had a
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.
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,
learning about HAVA RUSSIA and the life of Russian Jews today.