Betwixt and between the stops I described in my last post, we had two other experiences today that give me great hope for Ukrainian Judaism.
First we met Viktor Zonis, head of the Progressive (Reform) Jewish Community here in Odessa (pictured here with Jim & Kala Paul). It is his life’s mission to reclaim the Brodsky Synagogue which is currently the municipal archives and restore it for his progressive congregation. Right now, the only two functioning synagogues are Orthodox and that is great. But, it will be a wonderful step in the restoration of Odessa’s Jewish community when there are different choices available on the “menu.”
Then we went to the ORT School, which is actually a state school with a dual concentration on Hebrew language and IT. We met a couple of current students and a couple of recent graduates (it’s summer here too!) as well as two members of the faculty. After telling us about their school – including the national and European awards their students have won in robotics and computers – and giving us a tour, we got a live demonstration. WE were the students. We learned how to build a simple robotic car (with some assistance from the students and grads – thank God!). These students graduate university-ready, Jewishly fluent, with bright futures ahead of them.
And then, just for kicks, we saw production of the ballet “Giselle” at the Odessa Opera House – which is an incredible building that somehow managed to survive the Nazis.
Tomorrow, we travel to Uman (home of Rabbi Nachman’s grave) and then Cherkassy – the real reason we came to Ukraine.