In the midst of a week filled with heartbreaking news from the Middle East, it has been challenging to keep our focus elsewhere. The catastrophic events have shaken us to our core, and our hearts go out to all those affected. Nevertheless, even in the face of adversity, we must continue our work, our projects, and our commitment to our communities. At the same time, we must reach out to people in Israel, Belarus, and across the world to ensure they are alright in this new reality.
In what has been a most terrible, tragic, and devastating week for Israel and the Jewish world, a remarkable and uplifting event occurred in Belarus. We wish to share this moment of light in the darkness with you.
For weeks and months, our dedicated team in Minsk has tirelessly worked to renovate a part of the Daumana Street Synagogue, preparing it to open officially as the Minsk Jewish Cultural Heritage Centre. This undertaking was not just about restoring bricks and mortar; it was about preserving and celebrating a rich history and heritage. The goal was to be ready in time to host the General Meeting of the Jewish Religious Union of Belarus, bringing together 17 communities to vote for a new Chairman.
The work was backbreaking as they gutted and renovated the space, laid new floors, and painstakingly painted the exterior walls. The efforts were further bolstered by the dedication of students from the local Minsk College, where we teach our “Making History Together” Holocaust education program. It was a true community effort, and their commitment shone brightly. Click here to see the new centre.
On October 12th, the Religious Union’s annual meeting took place, and the crucial moment of voting for a new Chairman arrived. The outcome was both inspiring and unanimous, as Artur Livshyts was elected to the position. Artur is the co-founder and Country Director of The Together Plan UK charity (which turned 10 years old on October 10th), and he has devoted over two decades of his life to Jewish community development in Belarus. His journey has been marked by passion, hard work, persistence, and the unwavering belief in a brighter future. He has tirelessly built support networks, provided a voice and assistance to Holocaust survivors, devised a strategy for a Jewish cultural heritage route in the country, and ensured humanitarian aid reached and continues to reach communities and individuals, both Jewish and non-Jewish.
As we mourn the tragic attacks on innocent people in Israel by the Hamas terrorist organisation on October 7th, it’s essential to remember the historical context. Jewish communities that once thrived in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union faced brutal, violent waves of massacres and pogroms for centuries, culminating in the Holocaust. It is this history that led the Jewish people to seek safety in the land of Palestine, which later became Israel.
Today, Jewish communities in Belarus are small, fragile, and often overlooked. Through our work, we strive to provide them with strength, a voice, and hope for a brighter future. As Israel continues to fight for its right to exist, let us not forget the enduring resilience and determination of Jewish communities around the world. Click here for our article, a primer on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
In these challenging times, let us draw inspiration from the unity and dedication of those who work tirelessly to build a better future. Together, we can be that beacon of light in the darkness, leading the way towards a more harmonious world.