Chicago's Jews were among the most active in the nation in freeing Soviet Jews from oppression. Decades later, Russian Jews have become so successful, they are able to contribute to the success of Chicago's Russian Jewish community. In 2007, several of Russia's Jewish leaders formed Genesis Philanthropy Group, whose mission is "to develop and enhance a sense of Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews worldwide," according to its website.
They have done just that for the Russian Jews of Chicago in late 2012, with a $50,000 grant to JUF's Russian Jewish Division (RJD). The Division has already used the grant to fund a dozen activities for Russian Jews in Chicago, focusing on young families, young professionals, and college students.
Among the programs RJD was able to provide, thanks to the Genesis grant, have been leadership development fellowships, which provide funds for five emerging leaders to create their own programs, and the creation of a 15-member Advisory Board. There have also been monthly PJ Library book readings for small children and communal celebrations of Succot and Chanukah. Coming up for 2012 are a Purim carnival, Shabbat dinners on campus, and a family retreat. RJD also plans to organize visits with Russian-Jewish WWII veterans on their birthdays and on May 9, when Russians celebrate the end of that war.
"The ultimate goal is to interest and integrate Chicago's Russian-speaking Jews into the larger Jewish community, both as participants and leaders, while not losing their unique cultural heritage," said Evgenia Kovelman, RJD's director. "The Genesis grant is going a long way into making those goals a reality. Students who participate in our Russian Shabbat Dinners become more involved in their Hillels, young professionals attending our networking events begin to explore opportunities at JUF such as Trade Dinners and YLD, and young families who celebrate holidays with us are signing up for PJ Library and other Joyfully Jewish programs."
For more information about JUF's Russian Jewish Division, please contact Evgenia Kovelman at (312) 673-2351 or firstname.lastname@example.org.