While in Slutsk we stopped to visit the reclaimed headstones that were collected around the town of Slutsk last year. Headstones that long ago were removed from the Jewish cemetery and used as building materials. The headstones are now in safe storage and will be the subject of a memorial once the snow thaws. Whilst on our trip, we saw them in their heavy snow overcoats, a powerful remnant reminder of the rich Jewish community that once lived and thrived in Slutsk.
Over the weekend, seven members of the UK and Belarus TTP team visited the Slutsk Jewish Community, and met with the children of the Sunday School and the Slutsk community leaders. In minus 17 degrees the team drove through the snow across the country and were met with smiling faces and warm tea. Much was discussed. The community in Slutsk is in need of support. TTP’s Youth for Youth ambassadors from Polotsk, Bobruisk and UK will be creating new programmes for the youth in Slutsk. The TTP team will be building new growth strategies for community development. Exciting future for Slutsk and we will be looking for support partners to help this community to develop.
The survivors of the Minsk Ghetto had a special event organised by The Together Plan to mark this special day in the Belarusian calendar. Our Youth for Youth ambassadors led a special Kabbalat Shabbat service, followed by supper and entertainment by a professional Belarusian singer and performer who serenaded the community and sent everyone off into the cold night with smiles, song and laughter in their hearts.
Humanitarian aid collected and sorted in the UK was distributed in Belarus. The Together Plan team spent several days in the warehouse in Minsk selecting donations from the most recent consignment of aid. These were transported to a distribution centre and recipients were invited to select items. Minsk Ghetto survivors and family members were among the recipients. In sub-zero weather, warm coats, boots, scarves, hats and knitted blankets were much needed and gratefully received.
Our charity partner Foundation for Jewish Heritage launched its research mapping the historic Synagogues of Europe at the House of Commons last night. Opening words came from speaker of the House John Bercow, and speeches from the Chair of the Foundation Dame Helen Hyde and trustees Simon Schama CBE, Natasha Kaplinsky OBE, and Jim Murphy MP. One of the flagship projects is the Great Synagogue in Slonim, where we are already doing investigative initial surveys.
This week is a big week for The Together Plan!
We are looking forward to the launch reception at the House of Commons to celebrate the unique research project mapping the historic synagogues of Europe, with special guests Simon Schama CBE and Natasha Kaplinsky OBE. This is an initiative of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage in association with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The Together Plan is partnering with the Foundation for Jewish Heritage on the restoration project of the Great Synagogue of Slonim, Belarus.
Read the article in the Guardian about the launch at the House of Commons on February 7th.