At the beginning of the new learning year in Or Avner schools earlier this month, Sivan Rahav-Meir, a well-known Israeli journalist and popular Jewish educator, visited FJC’s Jewish community in Odessa, Ukraine and participated in several community events, including the First Bell traditional ceremony at the local Or Avner school.
The journalist was invited to Odessa to accompany Vika, a seven-year-old orphan from the community’s Mishpaha Children’s Home, on her first day of school, along with the parents of other first-graders.
“It was very exciting to see the ceremony- there it is a mega-event, a parade. It is exciting to see how important it is for these parents and kids to have this Jewish connection, even though most of them are not religious,” Sivan Meir said following the visit.
There are almost 500 students in Odessa’s Or Avner school and eight kindergarten groups; another hundred college students study at the city’s Jewish University.
“It was my first time at an event in an FSU Jewish community,” said Sivan Meir, “I didn’t imagine until now how many Jews are there still in Ukraine, Russia and throughout other FSU countries. These communities are huge, with a lot of needs and a lot of potential.”
On her visit, the journalist also met with older school and university students for a talk and gave a High Holidays-inspired lecture for the community members, with a few hundred people coming to the event that was simultaneously translated from Hebrew to Russian. “I really felt the crowd involved and interested, it was very special,” she said.
Sivan Rahav-Meir also had a bat-mitzvah celebration for her daughter coupled with a celebration for another girl from the Mishpaha Children’s Home – another special experience, which involved a challah bake and a lot of bonding with the group.
Sivan Meir’s daily WhatsApp posts, popular among Israelis and Americans, have just begun to be translated and published in Russian last week, with the number of subscribers already reaching a thousand. “I have a new way to reach this audience and it’s very meaningful to speak to them finally, after so many years, I think it’s very important that they are connected to our mutual heritage,” the journalist said.