About 90 young Jewish adults from Ukraine were rewarded for their hard work of studying Jewish tradition throughout the year with a week-long trip to France last week.
The youngsters, part of Ukraine’s STARS intensive program, studied with community rabbis and mentors three to four times a week for the entire school year and had to pass a test at the end of each month to qualify for the trip, so the reward came as a well-deserved prize.
“This was also not just a trip but rather a learning seminar,” said the head of the STARS Ukraine program Mr. Zalman Bokarev.
The students came from all of Ukraine’s larger cities: Kiev, Odessa, Kherson, Dniepr, Chernovtsy, Zaporozhie, Kharkov, Dneprodzerzhinsk. Each participant had to choose one of the three ‘faculties’ offered: history, art or philosophy, which would determine their program focus for exploring France. The group was based in the suburbs of Paris, while for Shabbat they came to the city center. “We saw Paris through the prism of Jewish history, Jewish philosophy and Jewish art, which all have deep roots in the city,” Mr. Bokarev said. Each faculty was accompanied by professional guides, who provided the context for learning and discussion.
Of course, the group also enjoyed fun outings and social programming. They bonded and by the end of the trip became a “close-knit team”. “Thank you! The trip opened to us France from a side which not everyone merits to see. We’ve learned so much and made so many great friends whom we are going to continue to stay in touch with” responded participants afterwards. “Thank you for the trip, for giving us, simple Jewish youth, the chance to see the world, learn and meet more people like us,” was another response.
This was the second year Ukraine STARS program offered end-of-the-year foreign trips as a reward. Last year they visited Austria and the Czech Republic. This year the amount of participants doubled, and hopefully next year will see even bigger numbers, Mr. Bokarev added.
The trip was organized by the International STARS program headed by Mr. Avi Cassel and supported by the FJC.