your dollars at work: Romania Jews enjoy heart-to-heart Passover celebration without face-to-face contact

April 8, 2021

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Like Jews around the globe, Romanian Jews have their own history and reason to be proud to belong to the big family of Bereshit, where they learn together and celebrate Judaism.

“As we all turn to preparing for Pesah in our homes, I am proud to share what is taking place in Romania due in large part to your (United Jewish Federation of Tidewater) support!” Sandy Katz, Joint Distribution Committee’s senior director, strategic relations, wrote in an email last month. “The Jews in Romania started the month of Nissan with a full day of learning on the topic ‘Let My People Go—the story of Pesah for the whole world’ through the learnings of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks ”

This third edition of online Bereshit, the flagship learning program organized by FEDROM with the support of JDC, took place on Sunday, March 14. More than 500 participants attended the session in real time (both on ZOOM and Facebook) from more than 25 Jewish communities. Thanks to the popularity of Bereshit, which was built along the course of a decade, and the infrastructure of the Federation, JCCs, and communities, it succeeded to bring the Jews closer to their community in a virtual way.

The loyal fans of the Bereshit brand in Romania faced a completely changed format due to the pandemic. Katz says, “the ties formed throughout the past years with this program and each other, brought them in droves, even if it was online, with no direct socializing or face-to-face interaction.”

The learning sessions were led by volunteer speakers, who were connected to Rabbi Sacks and shared his teaching: Rav Rafi Ostroff, Rav Alex Israel, and Rav Aviad Tavori.

Additionally, the program included a Yiddish component, with two prominent guests from the Yiddish world: Zalmen Mlotek, director of Yiddish Theatre from N.Y., and the session of Lia Koenig, the First Lady of The Israeli Theatre.

The day also included interactive parallel Limmud sessions, moderated by the JCC directors, in the style of a cafe-dilemma.

According to Katz, participants remained glued to their seats, even during the breaks, which included musical moments by beloved singers such as Meir Hermon, Cantor Emanuel Pusztai and Mordy Weinstein from Six13, as well as recordings of Rabbi Sacks.”

This is part of a series of articles spotlighting local and overseas partner agencies that are beneficiaries of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s annual Community Campaign.

- Lisa Richmon

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