From NJ to Odessa, With Love

Renata Magurdumov, originally from Odessa, Ukraine, gathered her friends in New Jersey to make a difference in the lives of orphans in her hometown.

Twenty seven years ago, lives were changed forever, when at the age of nine, Renata Magurdumov and her family left their home in Odessa, Ukraine, to immigrate to the United States.

Now, twenty seven years later, she’s giving back to the town where she was born; collaborating with Rebbitzen Tova Chazanow of Chabad of Western Monmouth County, NJ, and Rabbi Greenberg, director of Mishpaha orphanage in Odessa, Ukraine, to change the lives of the orphans in her home town.

For the past four years, Renata and Tova have gathered women together to connect at an annual program at her home, as part of the Chabad Jewish Women’s Circle. This year, they decided to focus on doing something good to heal the world. By Divine providence, Renata learned that there was a Chabad in her birth town of Odessa, Ukraine and she knew right away she wanted to help them.

Having left Odessa in 1989, at the age of nine, Renata didn’t know what being Jewish meant, and could not recall much of a Jewish community there. After talking with Rabbi Greenberg, the Chabad Rabbi in Odessa, she learnt that Odessa today is very different. Odessa now boasts a thriving Jewish community, including Yeshivas, Synagogues, Mikvahs, kosher restaurants and a Jewish orphanage run by Rabbi Greenberg.

This past Monday evening, over sixty women gathered at Renata’s home to help. The women were treated to inspirational words from Renata and Tova, and a personal video from Rabbi Greenberg, about the orphanage, followed by spiritually uplifting music from Chaviva Elharrar. Participants then got to work making beautiful hair bows, gift bags and kippahs for the orphans under the professional direction of Anna Groysman, of Bright Zebra Art Studio.

Merri Shapiro Cohen was sincerely moved by the event. “It was such a nice and spiritual evening, and I especially loved making bows and care packages for the Jewish children in the orphanage. It was amazing to see the personal speech from Rabbi Greenberg, who runs the orphanage and seeing the children.”

Renata’s children also got involved. Her son Brandon, 12, designed a beautiful Rosh Hashanah card, depicting children from both countries with a Torah connecting them. Ava, her 8 year old daughter, wearing one of the handmade bows, talked about how the bow made her feel beautiful when she looked in the mirror and how she hoped that the orphans felt beautiful and loved when they put on their bows.

The event was a huge success for the orphanage, as well as the attendees. “It’s like throwing a pebble in a pond and seeing the ripples grow,” said Patti Mollo, who was also inspired by the evening’s activities.

Renata later remarked: “This program left people wanting to do more; What started with bows has now snowballed into facebook donations, and people wanting to send clothing and toys.”

Due to the instability in Ukraine, the economy has collapsed and the orphanage is in real need of funds. Donations to the Mishpaha orphanage can be made at:

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