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Posts tagged ‘Russian community’

Engaging the Bay Area Russian Jewish Community

By Yelena Kozlova

In the Bay Area’s cradle of innovation, the newly minted Mishmash Philanthropy Group Impact Grants Initiative (MPG) is working on kindling fresh sparks of community building and connection among Russian immigrants to Jewish culture and tradition.  The 13 Mishmash participants, each of whom are immigrants from the former Soviet Union, have committed to identifying promising community entrepreneurs and help get their projects off the ground with financial and strategic support.  Though these young professionals hail from a range of sectors including engineering, technology, finance, marketing, and education, they share a common passion – to make philanthropy in the Russian Jewish community central to fostering new social impact initiatives.

While some group members are seasoned volunteers with a successful track record of creating and organizing events in the Russian Jewish community through the Mishmash group and other initiatives, others are excited to apply their start-up and corporate experience in the Jewish philanthropy world for the first time. Everyone is united by the mission of creating sustainable, scalable and innovative projects. Potential recipients of these mini-grants can be an established initiative wanting to expand their reach or a fist-time entrepreneur who wants to take a fresh approach at engaging Russian Jews.  Projects can focus on Jewish history, culture, ethics, education, religion,  innovative use of technology – as long the goal is to create community connection with a Jewish flair, the subject matter is wide-open.

The Mishmash Philanthropy Group

The Mishmash Philanthropy Group

At the group kick-off meeting last month, the members met to establish guidelines for grant distribution and to learn and be inspired by prior successes in the field. Galina Leytes, who established I-SAEF with her husband Lev came to share her experiences on the path to philanthropic success. She was originally inspired to become a leader in Jewish philanthropy after someone told her how her own immigration, and that of her fellow Russian Jews, was made possible through the generosity of others. Galina advised the group to leverage their own strengths, just as she has done turning her years of experience in technology entrepreneurship into a successful philanthropic fund  that focuses on innovation in the alternative energy field.

Grants of up to $5,000 will be made for initiatives carried out between August 2012 and July 2013 . Once initial grants are awarded in August 2012, grantees will get consultative support from MPG to ensure successful completion of the project. Get your creative thinking hats on, review the criteria  and dream up those project ideas big and small.  Contact the MPG group soon – they can even help you to prepare your proposal by the June 21, 2012 deadline.

“We believe in joint responsibility to build and sustain our community and its connection to Jewish life.  If you do too and are ready to lead these efforts - we want to hear from you!” – the Mishmash Philanthropy Group*.

*A project of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund’s Impact Grant Initiative, the  Jewish Agency for Israel, and the Genesis Philanthropy Group. 

Mishmash discovers Kevah text study

By Vera Fishman, member of Mishmash

The Mishmash Kevah group has a special place in the life of the Mishmash community. We are a group of Russian Jewish young adults who were mostly raised in Russian-speaking countries and have little to no formal Jewish education. Though many of us have typically turned away from organized religion, we are comfortable talking about Judaism as a personal identity. So something like “text study” can sound intimidating at first. However, those of us who were curious and open-minded enough to attend the first Kevah session found out that text study can be an intellectual journey and a journey of Jewish questions and values. We all returned for a second session, regardless of our religious practices.

Mishmash Keva's 1st session: Jewish Tradition Series

Studying text for the first time can be a truly eye-opening and liberating experience. The most important thing about Kevah is that it inspires. It turns out that text study is neither boring nor a purely academic experience – it can be fun, it can be challenging, it can be relevant to our daily lives.

Kevah makes it possible to focus text study around topics that are most relevant to the group. It is amazing that after each session every one of us leaves wanting more.

The Mishmash-Kevah group is organized by Vera Fishmash and Olga Rybak. Kevah is a grant recipient of JCF’s Impact Grant Initiative.

See lots more pictures.

Mishmash engages new Russian-Jewish community leaders

This past Saturday, twenty-three 20- and 30-something San Francisco Bay Area Russian Jews ascended a steep hill in the heart of Mill Valley to start off their collective involvement in the Mishmash Leadership Program, a ground-breaking effort to engage potential new leaders among young Russian Jews.

The Mishmash Leadership Program is truly one of a kind, not just in the Bay Area but in North America. The eight-month long course aims to raise communal consciousness in the younger population of the Russian Jews, most of them products of late ’70s and early ’90s immigration tides. Culturally diverse and multilingual, Mishmash participants have signed up to tackle complex questions about core values and responsibilities of being young Russian-American Jews in our community.

Russian Jewish community leaders engage through the Mishmash program

Russian Jewish community leaders engage through the Mishmash program

The visionary behind this educational project, Sasha Belinski, an emissary from The Jewish Agency for Israel, working out of the Federation’s Israel Center, built the Mishmash Leadership curriculum around the mission of strengthening the participants’ Jewish identity, their connection to Israel, and their sense of belonging to the local Jewish community. To reach these goals, the program is structured around three core components: personal exploration, Jewish community exploration, and personal leadership initiative. The last component will take shape as a communal project—ranging from a cultural event, to an outdoor adventure or Jewish holiday celebration—that each participant will conceive, plan and deliver as a mindful contribution to the quality of local Jewish life.

For more information contact Sasha at alexandrab@sfjcf.org or 415.512.6285.

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