When we help Russians to become aware of their Jewishness

When we help Russians to become aware of their Jewishness

Three-quarters of the Jewish population has left Russia since the start of perestroika. The young Russian Jews who have stayed behind are the target of the activities of various Jewish cultural organizations which help them find a new ethnic and religious identity.

Russian speakers from the former USSR now make up a quarter of the current population of Israel. Many of those who emigrated there never spoke Hebrew and never considered themselves Jewish. It is above all the wish to leave Russia and the intense activity of Jewish organizations which have helped them to find a new identity.

The young state needed to increase its population, and educated Soviet immigrants were preferable to immigrants from North Africa. Since then, the flow of migrants has reduced, but Jewish organizations continue to target young people in Russia.

Ioulia Dobrina knew from childhood that her grandmother was Jewish, without having given any importance to it. & Nbsp; «& nbsp; Mom only reluctantly recognized the fact of our Jewish membership because she still feared to be humiliated & nbsp; ”she says. One day, the girl found herself in a seminar organized in a Jewish youth center and registered as a member. Six months later, she was invited to take a free ten-day trip to Israel. "& Nbsp; I seized this opportunity & nbsp;", recognizes Ioulia Dobrina. After an unforgettable visit, she took part in the Eurostars Jewish youth education project and has since displayed her Jewish identity.

This phenomenon affects several thousand young people each year. TAGLIT, a non-profit foundation that offers a ten-day educational trip to Israel, is a good opportunity to fully convert to Judaism. Attention that matters when the fall of the ruble makes a trip abroad "unaffordable luxury".

According to Anna Birinberg, director of the Jewish center Hillel, young people between the ages of 18 and 26 and at least one of whose grandparents is Jewish can benefit from such trips. Documents must still attest to their origins: it suffices, for example, to present the identity card of his grandmother mentioning his Jewish confession. Groups of around 40 young people thus tour Israel and visit museums and historic sites. The program is funded by philanthropists, the Hebrew state - which draws on the taxes of its citizens - and by interested foundations.

Also according to Anna Birinberg, at the end of such a trip, most young people continue to have relations with Jewish organizations in Russia, one or two leave to live in Israel, four or five go there for a semester or a year as part of one of the Massa programs. The choice of programs is huge and ranges from in-depth study of Hebrew to practical training, for example, scuba diving instructor. The state grants young people a subsidy enabling them to pay in whole or in part for their stay in the country, during their studies.

Daniil Machtakov seems to have found the right program for him: he has lived in Israel for over a year. "& Nbsp; Massa helps me to get to know the country quietly, to learn the language without having to deal with everyday problems. It’s probably the best way to get to know Israel and possibly make the decision to settle there, "he said.

Taglit and Massa are international projects, but there are also specifically Russian projects. One of the best known is the Eurostars training project. Michael Stavropolski, its director and head of the Jewish youth club Jewell, explains that Eurostars is rooted in the Stars project which allows scholars to benefit from a scholarship to study Torah.

Faced with numerous criticisms of the fact that faith was thus subsidized, it was decided in 2013 to replace these scholarships with a trip to Europe at the end of a year of study. A nice bonus, but also a way to bring participants closer to each other. This decision affected both the quality and the quantity of the study programs which today have a branched network of faculties made up of the communities formed in almost all Moscow districts and regions.

In & nbsp; 2013 & nbsp; the program only brought together & nbsp; 100 & nbsp; young people from & nbsp; 4 & nbsp; cities, but next year it will take a liner to board the & nbsp; 1,200 & nbsp; people from more than & nbsp; 40 & nbsp; cities to take a cruise on the Baltic Sea.

Judaism experienced a real renaissance in Russia after the disappearance of the Iron Curtain, when the country saw the arrival of several emissaries of the Rabbi with Berl Lazar at their head. According to the 2010 Russian population census, 157,800 inhabitants identified themselves as Jews. In reality, people of Jewish origin are dozens of times more numerous, but either they don't know it or they don't want to say it out loud.

Working with them is the main goal of Jewish organizations. Lioudmila Joukova, of the Center for the Study of Religions at the University of the Humanities of Russia, indicates that the activities of Jewish communities and organizations can be described in some way as missionary work, except that they are targeted not at all. Russian citizens, but only on non-religious Jews. "& Nbsp; However, for young people who turn to Judaism, it is above all a way to find an identity & nbsp;", she explained.