Pinner United Synagogue kindly hosts The Together Plan’s Aid Together project, with volunteers assembling there each week to pack and sort donations of humanitarian aid in preparation for the transportation of our lorries to Belarus. We are extremely grateful to the community and the volunteers. For more information about how to get involved or volunteer with this project, contact Lucille Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call The Together Plan on 020 3375 0656.
Around fifty people gathered last Sunday for The Together Plan’s inaugural Belarusian Cultural Evening, which celebrated Belarusian music, art, literature and food, showcasing the very best that The Together Plan has to offer. The evening was put together by The Together Plan’s London development and projects team, and presented by Sonia Richardson, Jonathan Clingman and Jake Goldman. With the bimah of Finchley Reform Synagogue transformed into ‘Babushka’s living room’, enraptured audience members were transplanted from leafy north London into the forested and magical landscape of Belarus, on the other side of the European continent.
Copious amounts of Belarusian treats were available. Our guests sampled pickled herring, home-made pickled cucumbers and beans, black bread, vodka-infused mulled wine, sharlotka (Belarusian apple cake) and many more delicacies. Meanwhile Jake, Jonathan and Sonia presented a carefully put together programme of informative and engaging content, which included haunting renditions of landmark Yiddish, Belarusian and Russian-language songs and poetry. Belarusian art was exhibited and its key protagonists explored, and audience members heard first-hand the testimony of a Holocaust survivor, to be included in our upcoming translation of a book of memories, We Remember. We took audience members on a journey through Belarus’ varied and troubled history, introducing some of our most vital and needed projects which protect and preserve a proud and endangered heritage.
We hope to put on similar events at various locations, bringing the fascinating world of Belarusian culture to an even wider audience. If your organisation is interested in hosting one such event, contact email@example.com for more information.
Some of our London-based Youth for Youth volunteers also travelled to Manchester last week to connect with their peers and expand the vital work of The Together Plan’s flagship programme for young people, Youth for Youth. This project empowers young adults to revive Judaism and community life, not only in Belarus but across the UK, US, Israel, Germany, Ukraine, the Netherlands and elsewhere, and includes an annual residential summer programme in Belarus. The event, which was was hosted by Manchester Menorah Synagogue (Cheshire Reform Congregation) and facilitated by youth worker Joel Stokes, also included vital contributions from the community’s Rabbi Fabian Sborovsky. This was an eye-opening and insightful experience for all involved, and the start of an exciting new chapter in the life of Youth for Youth.
Debra Brunner, London co-director of The Together Plan, was received warmly and attentively by around twenty members of the Jewish community of Manchester last week. The event, which took place at Manchester Menorah Synagogue (Cheshire Reform Congregation), included many insightful questions from community members. Some of those in attendance have visited Belarus with The Together Plan and its forerunner in the past, and many expressed their excitement to get more involved in supporting The Together Plan, for instance by collecting humanitarian aid items and arranging for their transportation to our London warehouse.
Debra spoke about her personal journey towards advocacy and activism for the revival of Jewish life in Belarus. She also outlined her efforts alongside our Minsk co-director Artur Livshyts to establish The Together Plan as a dominant force in the achievement of communal self-sufficiency across Belarus, as well as in international philanthropic enterprise in the former Soviet Union more generally. The attendees then heard about some of the much-needed projects currently being undertaken by The Together Plan, including our heritage project to restore the Grand Synagogue of Slonim, as well as humanitarian aid provision, work with Minksk Ghetto survivors, and more. Also in attendance were our Development and Project Coordinators Jonathan Clingman and Jake Goldman, and the community rabbi at Menorah, Rabbi Fabian Sporovsky.
The Together Plan’s office staffer Jake Goldman and project coordinator Sonia Richardson were invited to speak to students at the Jewish Community Secondary School in London. They ran three extremely well received interactive workshops for Years 7, 8 and 9, in which they introduced the topic of Belarus and invited students to think about the challenges facing Jewish communities in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Jake and Sonia received extremely positive feedback from students and teachers alike, and many of the participants had not previously considered the difficult and often brutal environment in which their coreligionists in Belarus find themselves. It was a truly eye-opening and insightful experience!
Our co-directors Debra Brunner (London) and Artur Livshyts (Minsk) attended a variety of events across Belarus this week, representing The Together Plan. One such event was a reception at the British embassy, hosted by Ambassador Fiona Gibb, at which two survivors of the Minsk Ghetto shared their moving and important stories. These staunch activists now remain resolute that they will shout their stories to the world until the day they die. Also in attendance was Michael Mail, founder and director of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage.
The Together Plan’s co-directors Artur Livshyts and Debra Brunner took part in an historic visit to the Slonim Synagogue this week. The synagogue in western Belarus, which was visited by Jewish community leaders and local dignitaries, is a site of immense cultural and historical significance. This is the latest stage in a groundbreaking restoration project to revive the neglected building and facilitate its use by local Jewish and other communities as a tool in community capacity building. Having tragically fallen into disrepair since the obliteration of Jewish communities during the Holocaust and the subsequent Soviet campaign against religion and Jewish material culture, only vestiges of the building’s former glory remain. Our project to restore this remarkable building and establish a museum and interdenominational prayer space will be a living testament to a rich and meaningful heritage.
The Together Plan’s development coordinator Jonathan Clingman won the prestigious Graham Edwards Award for Young Adult Leadership in Volunteering at the Jewish Volunteering Network annual gala dinner in North London. These awards celebrate active participation in Jewish voluntary projects, bringing together the most prolific and active volunteers of the UK Jewish community. This is the second time Jonathan has been rewarded by the Jewish Volunteering Network, following six years of dedicated involvement volunteering at The Together Plan. His coordination of projects in the UK and Belarus has ranged from leading on summer camps to teaching and leading b’nei mitzvot across Belarus, as well as volunteering year-round.
This past year Jonathan has taken on a full-time role at The Together Plan’s London office, although many of his hours remain voluntary, devoted to helping to incubate and grow the charity. Jonathan also took the time this summer to visit, engage with and consult many of our partner communities across Belarus, providing a crucial link between the London and Minsk teams.
We all wish Jonathan a hearty mazeltov on this award!
The Together Plan’s co-directors Debra Brunner (London) and Artur Livshyts (Minsk) were invited to attend a moving ceremony marking the unveiling of a memorial in Novogroduk to the victims of the Holocaust. The Together Plan also facilitated the attendance at this event of many members of the Minsk Ghetto Survivors’ Association, who were provided with transportation to the ceremony and invited to personally unveil the memorial themselves. The well-attended afternoon brought together representatives who made this memorial possible, as well as local and international dignitaries including the mayor of Novogroduk and the United States Chargé d’Affaires Robert Riley.
The memorial comprises an impressive, beautiful statue outside the Museum of Jewish Resistance in Novogroduk, depicting a young girl in what is likely a fancy dress costume. Its design is based on a photograph, taken before the tragic destruction wrought by the Holocaust, of a Jewish child named Michle Sosnovski, who, as a young woman, was later tortured and murdered at the hands of the Nazis.
The ceremony included haunting renditions of Eli Eli and Hava Negilah sung by local Belarusian artists, as well as dance pieces and speeches. The event concluded with a panel discussion around the theme of ‘Remembrance and Commemoration’, in which The Together Plan's co-director Debra Brunner was invited to participate. Also on the panel were Frida Reisman, chair of the Minsk Ghetto Survivors’ Association, and Tamara Vershitskaya, curator of the Partisans Museum in Novogroduk, both of whom are longstanding partners of The Together Plan.
Debra Brunner and Artur Livshyts, The Together Plan’s co-directors, were invited to attend a reception at the British Embassy in Minsk in honour of the visit of British cabinet member Sir Alan Duncan MP, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, to Belarus. Debra and Artur were able to update their many contacts present at the event on the continued work of The Together Plan. Also in attendance was Nigel Roberts, author of the English-language Bradt Guide to Belarus, which now features many of our projects. The event also brought together representatives from many significant British and international organisations working in the former Soviet Union, including the World Bank.