New playground for the only Jewish school in Belarus

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Last week saw the opening of a new playground for the Hatikvah School in Gomel, Belarus, in a project overseen by The Together Plan. The playground was sponsored by Jewish Child’s day, a children’s charity based in the UK and a longstanding partner of The Together Plan, and a private donor in Gomel.

The Together Plan’s Development Coordinator in Belarus, Arina Pikhtova, attended the opening of the playground, along with representatives of the school and the city education authorities. They also witnessed the playground’s first use, and the children’s excitement was incredible.

Hatikvah is the only Jewish state school in Belarus, and the only state school with ties to one of Belarus’s minority ethnic or religious groups. It receives no extra funding for its unique remit and relies heavily on donations for resources such as the playground, reading books, toys, equipments. Parents of students contribute where they can.

Here are some photos of the opening ceremony:

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Here is what the playground looked like before the redevelopment:

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More photos are available on Hatikvah School’s website.

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Director Artur Livshyts invited to a reception with Prince Michael of Kent

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The Together Plan Director in Minsk, Artur Livshyts, attended a welcome reception for Prince Michael of Kent as part of the prince’s visit to Belarus last week.

The auspicious gathering was hosted by the British Ambassador to Belarus, Fionna Gibb, at the British embassy in Minsk. We are delighted and proud that the work we do for communities in Belarus is being recognised at such a high level.

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Bat Mitzvah celebrations in the Bobruisk Jewish Community, Belarus

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Last week saw the Bat Mitzvah in the Bobruisk Jewish Community of one of its young members, Evelina, in a packed ceremony. We offer our congratulations and Mazeltov to Evelina and the entire community on this impressive achievement.

In contrast to the UK, for most young people in Belarus the Bar/Bat Mitzvah process is undertaken alone. Communities lack the structures and access to educational resources that we take for granted here in the UK, and family support may be completely absent. The Together Plan is working hard with our communities to improve the situation. Evelina had a Bat Mitzvah Twin, who had her Bat Mitzvah at Hendon Reform Synagogue (Bobruisk’s twin community) in September. Twins write to each other, supporting each other through the challenging preparation process, gaining an insight into each other’s lives and cultures, and often forging lasting friendships. UK twins also provide financial support to their Belarusian counterpart and his or her community.

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Polotsk celebrate Rosh Hashanah with a day trip to the country

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Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year, and the Polotsk Jewish community have definitely started this year as they mean to continue. Their celebrations took the community on a day trip to the countryside and featured outdoor sports, games and a campfire. Even more excitingly, the whole community was represented at the event, from primary school-age children to their grandparents, and participants of all ages thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

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Three Cheers to The Together Plan

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Today, The Together Plan celebrates its third anniversary. Three years ago today, we were a piece of paper and a dream. We could not imagine that three years later, we might be working with a dozen vibrant communities and projects in Belarus and the UK, sending two lorries of humanitarian aid per year, highlighted a nationally significant Jewish heritage project in Brest, and watching the young volunteers we have trained spread their knowledge and enthusiasm in communities across Europe.

We’d like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all our supporters – from our volunteer packers of humanitarian aid to our enthusiastic youth volunteers; financial backers to professionals who generously donate their time; to all our supporters who read these newsletters; and countless others besides who make extremely valuable contributions to our efforts. None of it would have been possible without your unwavering dedication and vision.

Today, The Together Plan is celebrating its anniversary with the launch of our new website, built by one of our office team, Jonathan Clingman. This email will also be published as a blog on the new site. We would greatly value your feedback – please send to jonathan@thetogetherplan.com. It can take up to a couple of days for your computer to adjust to the switch, so keep checking our website over the next day or two to see the update.

Meanwhile, here in the office, we’re celebrating in style – with cake.

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The Together Plan moves into its new office

Earlier this week, The Together Plan’s London team began the process of moving into a new office. The office, in Kingmaker House in New Barnet, will be occupied by a charity hub comprising six charities, to whom the building’s owners have donated the third floor rent-free. The Together Plan is privileged to be one of these six charities.

Friday was spent moving furniture and resources from the old office to the new, and from our warehouse. Much of the furniture was generously donated by you to our Aid Together project, for which we are extremely grateful. We plan to move in permanently towards the end of this month.

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Happy New Year from Minsk, The Together Plan’s newest Jewish community

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Minsk has long been the base of The Together Plan’s Belarus operations, from where community projects across the country were coordinated. Now we are proud to announce that we have a nascent Jewish community in Minsk itself, and it is flourishing. The community, whose membership ranges from the elderly survivors of the notorious Minsk Ghetto to community coordinator Arina’s two-year-old daughter, have begun meeting regularly for Shabbat, and last week celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, in a vibrant evening of traditional foods, singing in Hebrew and Yiddish, and celebrating life.

The community in Minsk benefits from the experience of two members of our Youth for Youth movement who are studying in Minsk. These two young adults grew up in Polotsk and Bobruisk, where The Together Plan has been working for some time, and were trained by young adults from the UK. We are proud that they are now using their skills and experience to support other communities in Belarus, and their impact is clear to see.

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