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June 19, 2008 - Image 27

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2008-06-19

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World

Bridging The Long Divide

Detroit's young leaders visit Kiev Jewish community.

Bryan Gottlieb
Special to the Jewish News

A

fter nearly a decade of provid-
ing direct funding to the Jewish
community in Kiev, Ukraine,
the Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit
recently launched a young leadership mis-
sion to the former Soviet stronghold.
The goals of the three-part mis-
sion, known as the Detroit-Kiev Young
Leadership Initiative, are to help develop
the future leaders of the Kiev Jewish com-
munity, enable that community to become
more self-sustaining in terms of its social
outreach and fundraising capabilities,
provide a cross-community exchange and
broaden the exposure of the program's
Detroit young leaders (of which this
reporter was a participant).
Funded in conjunction with the
American Jewish Joint Distribution
Committee, a non-governmental organiza-
tion that distributes financial resources
to various Jewish communities in distress
worldwide, the Detroit-Kiev exchange has
been in the works for some time according
to Jeff Camiener, chairman of Federation's
Kiev Committee.
"Detroit has had a long relationship
with the Kiev community," Camiener said.
"We have similar concerns facing our
young people."
A population of similar size to that of
Detroit's, the Kiev Jewish community is
nearly as old as that city itself, stretching
back more than 1,300 years. Throughout
its history, Kiev's Jewish inhabitants have
enjoyed periods of both great turmoil and
renaissance. By the beginning of the 20th
century more than one-third of the city's
inhabitants were Jewish. However, the
Soviet takeover of Ukraine significantly
suppressed religious expression and the
Nazi occupation nearly wiped out the
city's 175,000 Jewish inhabitants during
the Holocaust — more than two-thirds of
whom were executed within a three-day
period at the notorious ravine of Babi Yar.

On Upswing
Still one of the largest Jewish communities
in the former Soviet Union, the absence
of Jewish identity throughout more than
half a century of communist rule caused
a breakdown of cohesive communal sys-
tems that 16 years of freedom have — to
varying degrees of success — begun to

Exchange participants in front the Brodsky Synagogue, Kiev's largest house of wor-
ship. Built between 1897-1898, Kiev's main synagogue was heavily damaged during

World War II and, for several decades, housed a puppet theater before it was reno-

vated in 2000 and used again for religious worship. From left: front row, Jennifer
Kroll of Birmingham, Jennifer Greenhill of Berkley, liana Liss of Birmingham and

Karee Strome of West Bloomfield; middle row, Jennifer Friedman, Bryan Gottlieb,
Todd Franklin and Ben Falik, all of Huntington Woods, Andrew Weitz of Birmingham
and Allison Nakisher of Huntington Woods; back row, Gil Feldman of Huntington
Woods.

address.
To that end, Federation has committed
a portion of its overseas funding to Kiev
since 2000 in an effort to rejuvenate the
societal organizations that act as safety
nets and those that help foster religious,
cultural and educational ties among the
city's Jewish population.
"The Jewish community of Detroit
has a longstanding relationship with the
Jewish community in Kiev and, through
its Annual Campaign, Federation funds

a number of social service programs in
Kiev," said Jennifer Friedman, former
Federation Young Adult Division president
and chair of the Kiev Leadership Program.
"The hope is that the relationship between
the two communities and these two
groups [of participants] will grow."
The Detroit contingent of the exchange,
a group of 10 young adults with varying
degrees of involvement within the Jewish
community, were selected based on their
leadership capacity, background and

demonstrated interest in the Jewish corn-
munity.
The exchange program itself was
designed in three stages. The first leg, the
mission to Kiev, was launched at the end
of May and consisted of a three-day trip
overseas to the Ukrainian capital, where
participants toured the city and its histor-
ic sites, participated in several socializing
sessions with their Kieven counterparts,
and met with local leaders and heads of
the Jewish community's non-governmen-
tal organizations.
The second phase of the exchange
will take place at the end of the summer
when Ukrainian participants will come
to Detroit for a week to continue building
their leadership skills by attending work-
shops, meeting with local civic leaders
and learning how Detroit's charitable and
social systems function.
The final stage of the program will
have the Detroit participants return to
Kiev sometime within the next year to
follow-up on the progress made by their
Ukrainian counterparts.
"There are multiple objectives of
the program; but its main objective is
leadership development for the next
generation of leaders, both in Kiev and
Detroit, by participating in this intensive
and demanding program:' said Jeffrey
Schlussel, former chair and current mem-
ber of the Kiev Committee. "Exposing each
group of participants to the other, and
sharing ideas of community and leader-
ship, should help each participant further
develop their leadership skills."

On The Go
Schlussel emphasized the intense sched-
ule the Detroit participants faced in Kiev.
After their 10-hour flight from New York,
the group immediately embarked on a
tour of the city and its historical land-
marks. Highlights included a visit to the
city's central house of prayer, the Brodsky
Synagogue, as well as seeing the birthplace
of Israeli leader Golda Meir and a moving
visit to Babi Yar.
Upon arrival at the hotel and confer-
ence center, participants were introduced
to their Ukrainian counterparts and, for
the next two days, met with each other
and toured social, religious and charitable
institutions with the goal of gauging the

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June 19 • 2008

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