Saturday, August 18, 2007

Aliyah Writes her First Russian Composition

Below is a picture of Aliyah's first short composition in Russian.

And this is after Ella corrected and graded it. A-!!! (Ella is a tough grader.)

Translated into English, it reads:
My House
"I sleep in my room. I sleep on my bed. Also, on my bed, I read books and magazines. I sleep with two pillows on my bed. My dog is deceased, but when he was living, he slept on my bed.
In my room there are drawers, a mirror, a lamp, and a window. Last year, I did not sleep in my room because I lived in New York.
In my house there is a kitchen. In my kitchen there are sinks, an oven, a table, chairs, a window, and a refrigerator. Yesterday, I ate breakfast in my kitchen. I want to eat a banana in my kitchen. Yum! Do you want a banana too? I invite you to my house to eat a banana in my kitchen."

And here are Ella and I after a Russian lesson. She was flattered that I invited her over for a banana in my kitchen.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Welcome! A Bit of Background on Your Humble Correspondent and her Work

Privet! (Hi!)
My name is Aliyah and I will be volunteering as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee's Roslyn Z. Wolf Fellow in Minsk, Belarus, for one year. Through the blog, (fondly named after the 1998 movie "The Big Lebowski") I hope to be able to communicate some of my experiences from this adventure to my family, friends, colleagues and other visitors. Basically, by writing about the new sites, people, sounds and tastes that I am bound to encounter, I hope to include you in my journeys, even if just virtually. (Literally too, if you're willing to pay me a visit!) I welcome you to leave constructive and respectful comments and feedback to which I will be sure to respond.
I found out about the Jewish Service Corps program about a year ago when I was trying to decide what to do after graduating from the Columbia/Jewish Theological Seminary Joint Program . Although I was sure I wanted to make Aliyah, I wanted to gain some invaluable international service experience before making that step. I am still sure that Israel will be my future home and that my time in Minsk will only strengthen and inform my personal and professional skills for the future.

Here are some facts about the Jewish community in Minsk. Some of the information was taken from the binder that was prepared for me by the JDC.
-Total Jewish Population in Belarus: approximately 75,000
-Jewish Population in Minsk: approximately 40,000
-The Minsk Jewish Campus opened on April 24th, 2002. The Campus shelters a number of key organizations, for example, The Union of Belarusian Jewish Organizations and Communities, Hesed Rachamim Welfare Foundation, Jewish Community Center Emunah, and Jewish Student organization, Hillel. The Campus' existence represents Jewish revival in Belarus. I know I will spend a great deal of time here!

Here are some personal goals I have for my year in Minsk. I'm sure they will change and adapt once I arrive and throughout the year.
-I hope to learn Russian (and some Belarusian since both are spoken in Belarus). I prepared for my year by taking private lessons in Los Angeles with a wonderful tutor named Ella. So far, I can say many useful things like "Where is the bathroom?" and "I don't speak Russian... No, seriously, I don't speak Russian!" (I've been told my accent is pretty decent *blush*).
-I want to establish a Moishe House in Minsk. This is an amazing project funded by the Forest Foundation . Slowly but surely, it seems like a Moishe House in Minsk might become a reality! I am so excited to be working on this! If it works out, I will live with several active Jewish Belarusian roommates and we will have small programs and gatherings in our apartment! I will keep you posted on this...
-I hope to learn more about the rich history of the Jews in Belarus and become acquainted with Belarusian culture. No doubt, a year in a new and foreign place where so many things are unfamiliar at once will be challenging! I'm excited to encounter those challenges which are sure to result in some valuable personal growth.
-Last, but certainly not least, I hope to represent Roslyn Z. Wolf, the extraordinary woman whose memory is honored by the establishment of the Wolf Fellowship, as best I can. Here is an excerpt from the JDC website about Roslyn Z Wolf:
"Among her many accomplishments, Roslyn Wolf was a trustee of several Jewish organizations, chaired the Cuyahoga County Grand Jury, served on the boards of the Ohio Arts Council and Cleveland State University, and worked tirelessly on behalf of disabled and elderly persons. She also chaired the Committee of 110 Ambassadors’ Spouses in Vienna, Austria, while her husband was posted there, and traveled with him to more than 50 countries, meeting most heads of states."

Next time I post, I will send you a proper "Privet!" from Minsk! I can't wait!
And now on to the daunting task of packing...