The trip that will never be forgotten by its hundreds of participants
For a whole week, hundreds of Jewish students from across Russia and the FSU experienced a fascinating journey that enhanced their Jewish pride and identity and resulted in a significant boost in their commitment to Judaism.
Photography by Akiva Sheinberger
“Throughout the year,” says Rabbi Mendy Wilansky, director of the ‘YAHAD’ organization that organized the trip, “we work with young Jewish students and professionals throughout Russia and the FSU and make sure that they connect with Judaism. The communal rabbis and rebbetzins study with them and bring them closer to Judaism. However, the opportunity that this journey brings about and the deep connection created here during a week of Jewish pride – during which they unite with hundreds of other young people just like them, study together, and deepen their Jewish roots – is revolutionary.”
The journey, as previously reported, took place on a huge luxury liner that sailed from the shores of Sochi to Turkey, where the students experienced many meaningful programs that strengthened their Jewish pride and led to a deeper and more meaningful connection to their roots.
They experienced an uplifting Shabbaton, trips and programs, and an impressive Rambam Siyum ceremony at the Great Synagogue of Istanbul in the presence of all the rabbis of Turkey, headed by the ‘Chacham Bashi’, Rabbi Yitzhak Haliba.
The last two days of the trip were spent by the students in a unique experience: an entire day was dedicated to a ‘Beit Midrash’ learning experience, after which the students divided into two study sessions, in each of which eight classes were held simultaneously in different topics of Jewish studies. It was a spectacular sight to see the students – who until recently knew little to nothing about their Judaism – passionately engaged in study.
Following that, a speed-dating matchmaking game took place, enabling the youngsters to quickly become acquainted with new friends and potential spouses. The most exciting and powerful moments were at the end of the journey when the students stood up and expressed how the journey changed their Jewish lives.
The ship’s crew also asked to express their impressions and excitement after such a week. They explained that they had been sailing for years, but they had never experienced a journey like this. The Chief Rabbi of Russia, Rabbi Berel Lazar, spoke about how we must take the great light and significant experience provided by the journey into everyday life, in everyone’s personal goals and work, and in influencing other Jews to connect to their roots and traditions.
During the evening, the students enjoyed a spectacular show by an ‘artist of the senses’ who dazzled them with his magic.
The YAHAD organization, which organized the historic voyage, operates within the framework of the Federation of Jewish Communities in the CIS – FJC, and will continue to act among the Jewish students throughout the entire year and ensure that as many young Jews as possible preserve and strengthen their Judaism.