Last night, some 1000 Russian-speaking Birthright Israel participants celebrated Israel as a land of diversity and opportunity as they came together for a special event honoring the country’s pioneering spirit and showcasing opportunities they can take advantage of to pursue their own dreams and goals in Israel.
“Many faces - One Israel,” held Tuesday night, at the Wohl Centre, honored the contributions of Russian-speaking immigrants to Israel in film, media, art, politics and technology.
For most Birthright participants from the Former Soviet Union, this trip not only marks their first visit to Israel, but also their first opportunity to discover firsthand the country’s cultural capital and bring the experience back home to their communities.
Participants were greeted by Dr. Zohar Raviv, Birthright Israel International Vice President of Education; Natalie Shnaiderman, Genesis Philanthropy Group's Director of Global Grantmaking; and Tali Ploskov, Israeli politician and member of the Knesset for Kulanu.
Nesia Friedman, life coach and Gallfer accessory brand creator, delivered a talk about innovation and risk-taking as an inseparable part of the Jewish people's toolkit, and how to apply them in everyday life.
Participants then had their choice from among lectures from prominent Russian-speaking Israeli leaders from different fields. Speakers included Evgeny Sova, political commentator at Channel 9 Israel; David Polonsky, renowned illustrator; Katia Goldstein, Evolita co-founder; Helena Yaralova, actress; Andrey Kozhinov, military and security correspondent; and Natalia Zourabova, artist. The lectures were then followed by an education fair showcasing a broad range of programmatic opportunities in Israel available for young Jewish adults from the Diaspora.
Gidi Mark, CEO of Taglit-Birthright Israel, said: "The 1000 participants taking part in this event join tens of thousands of Russian-speaking Jews from around the world who have helped Taglit-Birthright Israel achieve our vision of building a bridge between Israel and Jewish communities worldwide. We want to expose all young Jewish adults to modern Israel and its culture alongside history and Jewish heritage, and we are very excited to launch this event specifically for Russian-speaking Jews.”
The event is a part of a comprehensive partnership between Taglit-Birthright Israel and Genesis Philanthropy Group, intended to provide Russian-speaking participants with various enrichment experiences while they are in Israel participating in Birthright trips.
Ilia Salita, CEO of Genesis Philanthropy Group, said, “Taglit-Birthright Israel creates a unique opportunity for young Russian-speaking Jews to discover for themselves the heartland of our people and to explore their connection to their Jewishness. Birthright is, without question, the leading global Jewish project of our time, and we are hopeful that every year our partnership can help jumpstart Jewish journeys of thousands of Russian-speaking Jews from around the world.”
Approximately 45,000 native Russian-speaking young adults have experienced Israel through Taglit-Birthright Israel over the past 16 years. This past year alone, nearly 4,000 Russian-speaking participants visited Israel on the 10-day experiential and educational tours, furthering their understanding of the country and its history as well as deepening connections to their Jewish heritage.