Ezra USA Past Events
I am making this reportage from the office of this project in the "Ezra USA" building, which operates with support from the American Forum of Russian Jewry at 311 Sea Breeze Avenue in Brooklyn (commit this address to memory, I'll be glad if it proves useful). I derived much satisfaction from my conversation with Anna and Amanda, the two charming young ladies who manage and run the project, its volunteers. Anna and Amanda told me all about how this project came into being, and now it is up to me to inform my readers.
Apart from Ezra USA, the project is supported by another organization, called Larger Than Life (LTL). I can already tell you, that it was this organization, which helped making the contact with Israeli children's cancer hospitals.
So, it all started when the two inseparable friends Anne and Amanda decided to spend their leisure time on something useful and meaningful. Anne's attention was caught by the lot of children with cancer, whose numbers, unfortunately, are growing worldwide.
Paparazzi PurimThis time Ezra Boston has decided to join the efforts with CHAI center –Chabbad of Brookline. In Rumor club in downtown Boston the traditional Megilat Ester was read, hamentashen were eaten, and hot dances were danced. Costumes were incredible, music was rocking, and the spirits were up!
Fiddler on the RoofThis movie is a classic. It brought so many memories, so many well-known songs and stories. The participants had a chance to sink into the life of the Jewish shtetle for 3 hours; they also learn how their own babushkas and dedushkas used to live and were they came from. They were surprised to find out that those Jews who ended up in America in the beginning of the 20th century or at the dusk of that very century actually come from the same little villages in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus.
Firelach--10th anniversaryA few of Ezra madrichim in Boston are a part of this amazing theatrical group, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. Ezra helped promote the event and brought about 15 young spectators, who drastically lowered the average age ratio at the event.
Tao and Chassidism“Spirits and spirituality series” is a program running monthly in Ezra Boston. It’s always a great success, attracting intimate company of people and encouraging very interesting and deep conversations. At this particular meeting we discussed different streams in Judaism, and where they came from. The participants were surprised to find out that most probably some of their great-grandparents were real Chassidim.
Go for Zucker!A funny German comedy made everybody laugh. The movie spoke about a shlemazle, German Jew, who is always looking for a trouble, while trying to keep Jewish laws. The participants gave a great feedback on the film. Sushi was a blast as usual
Beyond ManischewitzA professional wine-taster gave her opinions on a selection of some very good kosher wines from Itali, California, France, and Israel. She explained what made a wine kosher, and what the significance of wine is in Jewish tradition. Accompanied by cheeses and fruit, this was a classy event.
Let My People Go: Refusenik MovementIt was a very interesting and a touching session. Edward Brodsky from the Jewish Agency for Israel came from New York to speak about the Refuseniks movement. The session included parts of the famous movie “Refusenik”, pictures and posters from that time period, as well as recollection of our own Refuseniks movement member, who could not speak about his experience without tears in his eyes.
NOODLEA story about a young Chinese boy stuck without papers in Israel while his mother is deported to back to China. A young Israeli woman he is accidentally left with goes to great lengths to return the child to his mother becoming his temporary mother in the process. A thoughtful and modern story which puts one in touch with their parental feelings. Sushi was an excellent complement to the evening!
“Good-Bye, Lenin”The story happens in Germany during the fall of the Berlin Wall and unification between the West and East Germanys. The process described in the movie is very similar to one happened in Soviet Union after its fall. Good sushi and good and deep movie were a perfect combination for the cold December night.
Destiny and PredestinationThe conversation took some very interesting turns, while participants discussed issues concerning the free will and destiny. Is it all predestined? Is there such thing as fate? Do we get to choose who we are, what we do with our lives? What is the Judaism’s view on these issues?
Channukah PartyChannukah party at the Russian restaurant Vernissage was a blast! Marvelous food, light alcoholic beverages, wonderful atmosphere created by Ezra staff ensured that every single guest had a great time. The party started with the exhibition called “The way it was or Back in the USSR”. Pictures from the times back in those days and some memories filled the room and created a very special atmosphere. Channukah candle lighting ceremony added meaning and a personal touch. The theme of the party resonated with everybody while the music played by our own DJ made sure everybody got to show their best on the dance floor. A success all around!
Channukaha and its lessonsFinally Ezra opened a new program that would concentrate on purely Jewish knowledge and Jewish studying. The program happens in partnership with JPULSE of Boston and takes place once a month. The first meeting was about Channukah and the meaning behind it. Rabbi J.P. Katz managed to get everyone very interested in the subject bringing up the most interesting issues.
Skating eventFirst Ezra Skating event was a blast! That’s why we decided to repeat it and had another round of Ice-Ice Ezra which attracted even more people than the first one. The atmosphere in the historical Skating Club of Boston was friendly and supportive. Ezra skating teachers (the madrichim who are the prosJ) taught those who needed help and guidance. When tired participants had a chance to stop at the Ezra table and have a slice of delicious Pizza
“Someone to run with”
Ezra Kino: "Someone To Run With". A powerful movie about a teenager caught in poverty and drugs brought Israel's everyday problems to the light. While most problems got solved by the characters in the movie, the audience captivated by the experience got involved in a discussion lasting long after the movie was over. A noted good experience exacerbated by food and drinks.
In the framework of Boston Jewish Film Festival Ezra people went out to see one of the unique movies covering the topic of Soviet history and Soviet reality. After the screening Ezra group gathered in a cozy atmosphere on Museum of Fine Arts of Boston to discuss the movie and remember what happened to the country we all came from, and what was the place of Russian Jews their.
The show was about 3 Holocaust survivors who met in Florida some 30 years after the war. Stories, memories, and laughter through sadness. The actors were brilliant; the audience was touched to tears by the taste of Yiddish food and sound of the Yiddish songs.
Ezra community watched a movie about a true miracle – and the power of prayer. Comic at times, sad at others, this movie was one of hope. The main couple prayed for a son but was throughout the movie “blessed” with ungrateful guests. Of course the conflict was reconciled by the end – but it was a bumpy ride for the audience. Sushi made the experience even more fun. After the movie participants discussed the movie and made key observations about the themes and character development.
Spirituality in Bed
Soooooo….this was definitely not a usual spirits and spirituality. There were spirits. There was spirituality. And there were lots of participants – all eager to know more about the role of spirituality in bed, from the Jewish perspective! People were interested and curious how different was the Jewish approach – and the meaning behind the difference. Everyone came away with more than they bargained for! The spirits helped facilitate the discussions.
Mystical Rosh Hashana - Jewish New Year 5771
This year – we combined Rosh HaShanah with Spirits and Spirituality to give the holiday a Kabbalistic twist. We dug deep into the Kabbalistic interpretation and discussed angels and demons, as well the four levels of existence. There was a home style seder and home-cooked delicious meal, and, of course, selyodka and red caviar. All of the participants had a chance to make a blessing for everyone else with a personal message. Hot apple cider was a big hit!
“Beautiful Mind” with Talmudic ExplanationsHow could one not feel sad and happy for the main character of this movie – a genius schizophrenic who at the end of his career is awarded a Nobel Prize. This was a first time where a “video Midrash” was designed – exploring the concepts of “what constitutes reality?” Everyone enjoyed the discussion and had something to say. And of course – the sushi was gone long before the movie was movie. The “video Midrash” was a big hit, too!
“MEAT AND LOVE”
Everyone wore beautiful white to this event of music, fun, games, eating meat, and songs on guitar. People mingled, were in great moods, and enjoyed celebrating the Jewish holiday of love. Team building games and activities were the major of the night. Everyone was able to meet each other, make connections, and bond. The night finished with watery watermelon!
“Schwartz Dynasty” is a unique Israeli movie which is build on stereotypes of different groups in Israeli society, but also manages to depict very accurately various issues in each single group, while laughing at them hysterically. The Russian culture meets Israeli culture, and something very interesting comes out. For the participants it was very interesting to see who the Russian immigrants are absorbed into Israeli society.
Middle Eastern Shavuot and Hookah night
Shavuot is a celebration of the giving of the Torah, the holiest of the Jewish books. This Shavuot in Ezra Boston was a mix of Middle Eastern spirit and various Jewish and secular texts. Only that night Ezra participants could sink into the magic of the enchanted texts, hear the dessert stories, and enjoy the real Bedouin hospitality over the Middle Eastern food, Bedouin Chai and Hookah.
On May 8th, 2010 in hotel Shalom in Jerusalem took place a "Mega Event". At this event, five Ezra Taglit groups from the USA
and from the former Soviet Union came together . This type of gathering has become a very pleasant tradition for EZRA groups who come here from different parts of the world. The participants of these groups get to meet and greet and have a good time together. Also, in attendance at this event were important guests, such as Alex Miller, who is the Deputy of the Knesset from the political group "Our Home Israel" , Igal Yasinov, the Vice President of the Jewish National Fund, and Arik Nudelman, who is the representative of "Beyteyni Olami" and a member of the City Municipal at Ramat- Gan. Also, present was the President and representitive of the Tourism Agency "Tailormade". The atmopshere of the event was very festive and friendly. The night ended with Israeli National dancing and tasty cake.
The seminar was specially designed for Russian speaking individuals from the former Soviet Union and represented four major organizations - Ezra, Hillel, Nativ, and JAFI. EZRA uniquely included together madrichim from all over the globe: Germany, North America, Israel, and FSU. The educational training was provided by the Institute of Informal Education headed by Dr. Dima Zicer. For the madrichim from Ezra, this seminar was more than just about training of a madrich, but also offered a wonderful opportunity to connect and make friendships with young leaders from other organizations. Participants were able to share experiences and goals and to grow in the process. Most importantly, madrichim from Ezra had a full week to practice working together with one another and learn to operate as individuals within a team to achieve a common goal. Additionally, madrichim from Ezra met with leaders from the Ezra organization and tour guides who offered advice and answers to some important questions, and all worked together to design and improve the Birthright itineraries for the upcoming summer season. Ezra madrichim came back with new knowledge, experiences, friendships and a deeper connection to Ezra - realizing that collaboration and friendships are possible even across the Atlantic.
Spirits and Spritiality: Kabbalah and The Secrets of the Letters
Kabbalah is a mystical teaching of Judaism. Its a world of reality that is sometimes beyond of our comprehension. Hebrew letters and words are mysterious entities, uniting in themselves wisdom and mystory, and knowledge about the creation of this world. The world was created with words, and names were given to every single thing. Our names are words too. During the meeting of the club we expored our names and their essences, and how they reflect our essence and human beings.
Israel Independance day BBQ
Ezra family celebrated Israeli Independance in a warm and homy invironment together with Ezra madrichim and friends. Israeli style BBQ and tosts for Israel and its prosperity made this event full of Israeli spirit and hope for peace. Thanks to Ezra Russian-speaking young adults know when Israel independence day is, and what it means for the entire Jewish nation. Most of them went to Israel and fell on love with it, and now keep this little country close to their hearts.
Holocuast Remembrance and Learning Day
In Ezra we realize that memory is done actively by learning and doing. This Holocuast Remembrance Day was a unique opportunity for Ezra participants to learn about the past and to ask about the present. Semyon Rudyak, a holocaust servivor and a poet, has told his amazing story and shared his insights on modern reality, as well as read some of his poem. The ceremony was accomponied but a group of Israeli IDF officers, who were brought to Boston with Hatikva Mission by CJP Boston Haifa connections program specially for the commemoration and celebration of the most imporatant days in Israeli calendar. The Israeli IDF officers led a workshop that dealt with Holocuast in Israel today and the connection between the contemporary generation and the history.
Shanti-Bhanti Passover Seder with Ezra USA@Boston.
The traditional seder gathered together about 40 participants. Everyone was sitting in the circle on cozy couches and arm chairs, and the atmosphere was very homie.... The participants indulged into delicios foods, traditiional 4 cups of wine, as well as the story of Exodus mixed with contemporaty questions and answers. It was an amazing event!
Meeting #2: "Let's Drink To Freedom!"
Just couple days before Passover about 15 people gathered together to have some Russian homemade pelmeni, drink some cocktails, and tealk about FREEDOM and what does it mean to be free. The conversation was very meaningful, as Pesach is the holiday of Redemption and Freedom for Jewish people.
"LOST ISLANDS" and Chammetz Party
The movie feachures Israeli teen-agers in the beginning of 1980's. Their lives, interestsand dreams are very simiular to a regular American teen-ager, and that's where our guests could find the connection to themselves. But what is different is the Israeli reality which comes into the scene with military service, large and very close families, and commitment to the country. But other than that, same Rock'n'roll!
The Purim Party was a blast! Russian Karaoke, open bar organized by Ezra madrichim, the story of Purim told and acted out by Ezra participants, and all kinds of Purim costumes. Our friends from Chabbad synagogue joined us around midnight to read a Kosher Megila for Ezra USA. The celebration lasted long after midnight and brought a lot of new friends to Ezra. And, of course, a lot of people fulfilled the very important Purim obligation "ad lo yada'" (you should drink so your shouldn't distinguish between the righteous Mordechai and evil Haman ) :) Its was an amazing event!
This is a fine event for fine people. Mix a quality beverage with some deep intellectual discussion. The event was just the beginning of the club.We spoke about love and ways to love. How does one practive love? Love is not only a romantic entity, its also very practical thing. Judaism speaks about love as something you have to work on. Erick Fromm speaks about love not bounded by one person and one place, but as a way to live your life.
“BONJOUR, MONSIEUR SHLOMI” A warm family comedy and a surprising love story!
In Boston regular movie screening turned into a big young professionals’ event of networking and pleasure. Initiated by the participants themselves the movie is usually preceded by various professional seminars like Money Management, Real Estate, etc. It’s an opportunity for young people not just to come and watch a movie, but also to share their professional interests and by that start building young and vibrant community.
I recently had the pleasure to attend the Ezraton Weekend in Calistoga. This weekend had the perfect balance of fun and educational activities. It was really amazing meeting everyone, especially Rabbi Margolin, one of the coolest rabbis I've ever met. What I really enjoyed was the fact that there was just enough Jewish education to make the weekend relevant, but there was no pressure of any kind and it didn't feel forced.
The Madrichon/Ezraton at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center was an event that ended too soon. With snow covering everything on the ground, it was a winter wonderland. We did everything from hiking and yoga classes during the day to learning about the holiday of TuBishvat. Of course no one can forget all the singing and dancing done during the karaoke night!! The weekend retreat was a great opportunity to make new friendships and reconnect with old friends. I can not wait to go back. Thank you Ezra Staff for a wonderful weekend!
Ezra USA provides an opportunity for graduates of our Aviv leadership program to participate in the Poland – Israel seminar. This unique trip allows our participants to visit the concentration camps, as well as places in Poland where once a vibrant Jewish community used to blossom. The participants learn about their heritage, and get the sense of perspective.
Russian Movie Marathon is an amazing event where Russian young adults have an amazing opportunity to reconnect with the culture of one big country they all came from—RUSSIA. Accompanied by Olivie Salad, Vinegret, and herring they all engaged into the night of nostalgia. They laughed and cried together with characters which were so dear to the heart of theirs and their parents.
The Channukah Party at Ezra Boston was one of the biggest events in the past year. About 80 participants attended the event. Live Jazz music, delicious donuts, relaxing cocktails, and traditional candle lighting turned the event into unforgettable. The participants had an opportunity to mingle, play card games, and learn about their future form a palm-reader. It was an amazing party!