Why It All Matters

This week significant changes have happened in Ukraine's Jewish communities. They might not be seen by the entire community but the impact will be lasting and strenghen the future of Ukrainian Jewry. And where has it all begun? With teenagers and their motivation to transform their Jewish communities.

Let's start with Sumy, Ukraine: Their teenage madrichim (leaders) planned a community Hanukkah event called “Hanukkah Casino.” The teenagers ran stations for different Jewish board games, dreidl competitions, Hanukkah memory games, a counter to buy tickets, and a counter to exchange tickets for prizes. The program was attended by 50 community members of all ages, but run by the teenagers.

In Kharkov, the teenage madrichim took a large step towards the ultimate goal of programs being completely thought up and run by themselves. While talking about this week’s program the madrichim took the lead completely. They thought up the idea of the program (a scavenger hunt throughout the JCC) and starting planning each station. In fact, they planned the entire program themselves with minimal alterations made due to logistics. We cannot wait to see how it will go!

(Picture from last week's Hannukah program - making decorations for the entire Jewish Youth Club Association)

Our newest addition of teen madrichim came this week out of Dnepropetrovsk, a city with the largest Jewish business center in the world. Constantine Kanivets, the youth director of the JCC, had three teenagers that wanted to start a teen club, and this week they had their first meeting to plan and talk about its future. They have their first event later this month and they could not be more excited to invite all their friends to see what is going on.

But why does all this matter?

When the teenager in Sumy gets to plan a program that is attended by the entire community they are no longer participants. They are leaders, their connections to the community becomes stronger, and we ignite a flame within them that they will always want to improve the community. It becomes their community.

I video-conferenced into the meeting with the Dnepropetrovsk madrichim with the madrichim from Kharkov. The most important part was that these teenagers got to see and learn from each other about the values of communal involvement. They got to see that they are not the only ones delving into Jewish life. When the leaders of both teen clubs lit the Hanukkah candles together over Skype – we got a small glimpse of what the future of a unified Jewish Ukraine and Jewish world will look like.

That is why it matters.


This year, we are trying to connect Jewish teen clubs throughout Ukraine to each other through seminars and retreats and to BBYO international. Every week, I will be showcasing a different community and their teen club. Help us strengthen the Jewish world by connecting Jewish teens to one another. Learn more by clicking on the following link.


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