brothers Alex and Nik Turik are sponsoring this year’s Shabbaton— Shabbat
weekend retreat— for JUF’s Russian Jewish Division (RJD). The Shabbaton will be
held from March 7-9, at the Hilton Indian Lake Resort in Bloomingdale, Ill.
year’s event, which might not have gone forward had the Turik brothers not
stepped up, will be the 10th year Chicago’s Russian-speaking Jewish young adult
community has had a weekend of its own. More than 100 participants from the
U.S. and Canada will connect with those of a similar background, celebrate their
identity, and discuss their role in the Jewish world. Speakers will include Refuseniks and those active in the
Soviet Jewry movement. For many, this will be their first Shabbaton— for
others, their first Shabbat ever. Over the years, dozens of couples have met at
the event, and now they bring their children.
Twins Alex (left) and Nik Turik are sponsoring a Shabbaton for JUF’s Russian Jewish Division in March.
twins, now 35, were born in St. Petersburg, Russia, then moved to Israel and served
in the Israel Defense Forces. In their early 20s, they came to America.
involvement in Chicago’s Jewish community began with a free membership to the
JCC provided to new immigrants. While attending DePaul University, they made
friends through Hillel, and attended a JUF Walk with Israel. Philanthropist Harold
Eisenberg mentored them, took them to JUF events, and “eventually became a
father figure,” Alex said. “He showed us that [to be] Jewish in America is to
be part of community. He helped us with
brothers also helped form a community of their own, “organizing dinners with
business leaders,” Alex said. “Then we bumped into JUF/Jewish Federation Board
Member Harvey Barnett (a member of the JUF/JF Board of Directors) and invited
him to talk. He came on Purim [and] told us about his involvement with Soviet
Jewry. We read the Megillah (Scroll
of Esther) together. It was moving for all of us; he was moved to see the young
Russian Jewish people interested in Judaism and Jewish community.”
Alex also mentioned several
and professional lay leaders as “people who inspired us and helped us
professionally”: Wendy Berger Shapiro, vice chairman of the JUF/JF Board of
Directors; David Schwalb, president of Schwalb Realty Group and committee member of JUF’s
Real Estate Division; Charles
& Harry Huzenis, principals of JRG Capital Partners, a corporate partner of
JUF;Paula Kaplan-Berger, the
principal of Berger Law, P.C.and member of the Hillels of Illinois Governing Commission; Peter
Friedman, senior planning advisor for JUF; and
Michelle Maer, director of Giving for Solomon Schechter Day School.
“These leaders showed
us that it is our responsibility to help others, immigrants or those less
fortunate, and that it is really a Jewish responsibility,” Alex said. The brothers became active in
RJD; Alex now sits on its Advisory Board.
people get lost—Russian young people,” Nik said. Through RJD, he said, “it is
easy [for them to] connect to young people of Russian background right away.”
the Russians came without any sense of a community,” Alex said. “To realize we
can be part of something larger is incredible. We began to realize RJD is
keeping us together. I have been involved for a very long time, to see us
quick to emphasize that RJD is for all ages, however. “I volunteer with World
War II veterans and Holocaust survivors, people who often get forgotten… I see
how they are touched by our attention. They did a huge sacrifice— not only in
WWII, but to stay Jewish!” Alex said. “What they had to endure, it is really
moving. Every time I visit their homes, I think of my own grandparents, and I
am moved to tears, and have the feeling of awe.”
their real estate company now in its fifth year, they felt it was their turn to
give of themselves. As Alex put it, “When you realize how hard it is to have a
new beginning, you appreciate help. Now, it is the point to give back.” For the brothers, involvement in RJD “is
part of being Jewish, part of belonging to the Jewish community. It means to
help less fortunate, people who need help, or to sponsor a Shabbaton like this.
working to help RJD move, grow, and expand,” Alex said. “To make people
involved with us, and as a result, build a larger community as a whole, meaning
think that charity… is what old people to do, with lots of money,” Alex said,
“I think it can be done— it should be done— much earlier. It can be with your
time, and it can be done with what little you have. Just get involved and give
something of yourself.”
life becomes much richer when you give,” Nik agreed, “in all kinds of ways.”
To learn more about the Russian Jewish Division
or Russian Shabbaton, contact Evgenia Kovelman, RJD’s director, at www.juf.org/RJD.