On behalf of everyone at The Together Plan we’d like to wish all of our supporters celebrating Rosh Hashanah this week a Shana Tova u’metuka – a very happy and sweet new year.
This festive season is a particularly significant milestone for The Together Plan, as we look back on our first half-decade ahead of our fifth birthday on 10th October. We’ve achieved a remarkable amount in this short time, due entirely to the generosity of people like you: those who have given their money or time; donated unwanted clothes to our humanitarian aid project or volunteered for us; come along to an event or simply read our newsletter each week. We couldn’t have done it without you.
At this time of year, we are encouraged to reflect on our actions over the year past, and on the person that we would like to be in the year ahead. As communities across Belarus prepare to enter a new year, with all the achievements and challenges that entails, we ask you to help them realise their ambitions for 5779. There’s so much to do: the Minsk Ghetto Survivors’ Association will launch their first ever English-language book in late October; the enormous task of restoring the Great Synagogue of Slonim will get underway; the final touches will be put to a comprehensive, multi-denominational online liturgy and music resource; and communities across Belarus will continue to provide a much-needed cultural and spiritual home for their members.
For this reason, we’ve launched a High Holy Day appeal, which will run until the end of December. Donations of any size will be greatly appreciated and will make a huge difference to our communities in Belarus.
This Rosh Hashanah, will you help us make our vision for 5779 a reality?
You can donate online using the form below.
Donate online now
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Have you ever wondered how to pickle and why pickling was so important in Eastern Europe? Do you know why we put stones on Jewish graves and not flowers? And have you ever tried to turn a stone into a flower?
Come and join this family friendly Shavuot afternoon, join our pickling workshop, paint a stone and learn more about the Jews of Eastern Europe today. A community event for all ages.
Bring a pickling jar, green beans to pickle and a stone to paint (Information will be emailed on registration).
10% discount for Friends of The Together Plan! Sign up now to become a Friend.
Join us for a stimulating interactive evening of Belarusian culture in support of Jewish communities in Belarus and the former Soviet Union.
Written and created by three young people with a passion for Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and Jewish and Yiddish culture, this live revue gives a fascinating and moving account of our collective history, achievements, hopes and dreams.
Join us on a journey journey through the rich history, culture and traditions of Belarus through poetry, music, film, history, Yiddish, and more. Sample Belarusian vodka, enjoy traditional delicacies including herring and hand-made pickles, and connect with like-minded people in a welcoming and informal setting, supporting EHRS’s Belarus Project in partnership with The Together Plan.
There will be a reception with traditional Belarusian drinks and snacks, tea & coffee, and light refreshments, followed by the main performance. The event will last approximately 2 ½ hours including reception and interval.
To book tickets, please use the form below, or contact The Together Plan office on 0203 375 0656 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For reasons of security tickets are not transferable. When booking tickets, please ensure the names of all guests are correct. We cannot guarantee your entry if your ticket is not in your name.
Last week, The Together Plan was interviewed by Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty about our project to restore the Great Synagogue of Slonim, Belarus in partnership with the Foundation for Jewish Heritage. Due to the building’s immense historical significance, the restoration project has been attracting the attention of media worldwide, featuring in the Guardian earlier this week. With this interview, the project makes its first appearance on a major news platform in Belarus itself.
the Slonim Synagogue is among the four most important historic synagogues in Europe. Restoration of the building may begin this year.
The 17th-century Slonim Synagogue is among the four most important historic synagogues in Europe in urgent need of restoration. Its conservation could begin this year, and within the next five years restoration work will take place. UK-Belarusian charity The Together Plan explains how a restored synagogue would promote the revival of Jewish community in Slonim and attract tourists to the city.
For more than 20 years the synagogue has been crumbling.
On 7th February 2018, in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament the question of the Slonim Synagogue was discussed. It has been identified as one of the four most important historic synagogues in Europe, among more than 3 300. Their restoration is currently being planned by the Foundation for Jewish Heritage.
As reported in the Guardian, historian Simon Schama initiated a survey of all historic synagogues in Europe that still survive, rating them according to their significance. Restoration work is planned for the buildings of greatest historical value. The Slonim Synagogue is among the first.
The Great Synagogue in Slonim was built in 1635–1642 in the Baroque style. Today it is the oldest building in the city. In Soviet times, there was a warehouse of a furniture store; in an annex was a cafe. In the 1990s, the building was acquired by the state – but since then, its condition has only worsened. Located next to the market, the synagogue has suffered as a result of littering and vandalism.
In the last 20 years there has been a number of attempts to restore the synagogue. However, these largely yielded no results and the building continued to deteriorate. Only one construction project, to restore the badly damaged roof, was ever completed.
“There have been attempts to restore the synagogue for a long time, including by the Slonimer Jews in Israel and other organisations, but nothing has changed. The synagogue is falling apart, and nothing is being done.” Artur Livshyts, head of Belarusian charity Dialogue and representative of The Together Plan in Belarus, tells Svaboda.
Dialogue and The Together Plan are engaged in discussions with the local authorities in Slonim on the possible reconstruction of the synagogue. In September 2017, they signed a memorandum of intent with the Slonim District Executive Committee.
“I really liked the attitude of the Slonim authorities to the project and to Jewish matters in general” said Arthur Livshyts. “They have been very active in their support.”
The Slonim Synagogue is one of the oldest in Belarus and is built in the Baroque style. As architect Galina Levina told Svaboda, the Slonim Synagogue provides a valuable insight into the history of religious life, art and architecture in Belarus.
“The Slonim Synagogue absolutely needs to be talked about. Its new rating only confirms this,” Levina said. “For us it has always been one of the most interesting synagogues. It is such a vivid example of the life of Slonim and Belarus throughout the centuries.”
Levina notes that the synagogue is noteworthy for the frescoes it contains. In the early 1990s, restorers from the Bastalia creative workshop worked in Slonim, making copies of all the paintings.
“The Slonim synagogue unique because such old painting are preserved here,” restorer Nikolai Zolotukha told Svaboda.
Also involved in the project is a British TV presenter, whose grandfather is from Slonim.
A long-standing interest regarding the Slonim Synagogue exists in the UK. In 2007, a film crew from the BBC visited Slonim to record an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? That episode of the family history programme would feature the famous British TV presenter Natasha Kaplinsky, whose ancestors came from Slonim and who visited with the film crew. Her grandfather was a rabbi in the synagogue until he emigrated in 1929.
In 2016, 27 representatives of the Kaplinsky family visited Slonim. Natasha and her uncle Simon Kaplinsky are two of several influential figures in Britain who have given their support to the synagogue revival project in Europe.
Simon Kaplinsky, Natasha’s uncle, is an influential civil engineer in Britain and is participating in the project for the restoration of the synagogue. He was one of the signatories of the memorandum with the Slonim authorities, having reviewed the technical documentation for the synagogue.
However, the decision to identify the Slonim Synagogue as a priority for reconstruction had nothing to do with the Kaplinsky family.
“There was an independent study,” says Artur Livshyts. “The Kaplinskys’ story did not affect the decision. But it has turned out well that such influential people are participating in the project. “
The restoration of the synagogue could lead to the revival of Jewish community in Slonim.
What can a restored synagogue offer Slonim? Artur Livshyts believes that Slonim stands to benefit from the attention it now has in the UK. According to Artur, the city’s participation in this project could lead to a growth in tourism. It will also attract invtestment, including by those living in Slonim. One famous resident of Slonim was Michael Marks. After emigrating to the UK, he co-founded the well-known retail chain Marks & Spencer.
The project has already generated interest in Judaism in Slonim. Before the Second World War, Jews accounted for 80% of the population of Slonim. Now, according to the census, there are only a few dozen among the city’s 50 thousand inhabitants. According to The Together Plan, once the synagogue’s restoration is underway, a Jewish community may reemerge in the city.
“We want to support such an initiative,” says Artur Livshyts. “There are a number of people in Slonim who with the support of the authorities have come forward to express their interest.”
As early as the summer of 2018, an international Jewish youth symposium will be held in Slonim, which will be dedicated, among other things, to the architectural heritage.
“We will continue to work on the project, even if a community does not appear in Slonim, but we would be glad to see the Jewish population of Slonim become more active,” added Artur Livshyts.
The first step: conservation of the synagogue in 2018
The plan for the restoration of the synagogues was announced at an event in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament. Influential politicians, scientists and celebrities participated in the event. Although many Members of Parliament have expressed support, Government funding for the project is not expected. A plan of action has been worked out for each synagogue.
The first stage of the restoration of the Slonim Synagogue has already been completed. At the end of 2017, the state of the building was assessed and urgent repairs identified. External structural supports will need to be erected to prevent the building’s imminent collapse.
“We hope to begin this conservation work within the year,” said Artur Livshyts. “I estimate that it will cost between 100 and 120 thousand dolllars. This is an achievable sum for such a large building. “
Now the search for funding for conservation begins. Asked when the synagogue will be completely restored, Livshyts does not give a precise answer, instead saying that this is a long-term project that will take at least five years. The final cost of the work is unknown, but we are talking about “millions of dollars”.
“I would not rush to give predictions. We need to take things one step at a time. These are not empty promises: we are working hard to realise these plans,” says Livshyts.
During the darkest years of the Holocaust, the small village of Porechye, south of Minsk, became home to forty Jewish children fleeing the Minsk Ghetto, whom the villagers adopted into their families at enormous risk to their own lives.
Today, in the run-up to International Holocaust Memorial Day, representatives of The Together Plan joined a commemorative delegation at Porechye for a ceremony of speeches, wreath-laying, and a recitation of the Kaddish in remembrance of the countless individuals who (unlike the Porechye children) did not survive. In attendance was the German deputy ambassador, Anja Luther; Chair of the Minsk Ghetto Survivors’ Association Frida Reisman; Maya Krapina, one of the Porechye children; two inhabitants of Porechye and Righteous among the Nations; and Ekaterina Kosmolskaya, director of the district’s Department for Culture.
Braving freezing conditions, the 40-strong delegation gathered at a roadside monument, before continuing to a nearby town, where we were joined by local schoolchildren. ‘I ask that the village of Porechye be known as the village of kindness, for nowhere else have I met such selfless individuals as in Porechye,’ said Ms Reisman. ‘When we arrived here, though just eight years old, we had become like old men and women,’ she added, now aged 83 and ablaze with life. The Together Plan provides support to the Minsk Ghetto Survivors’ Association in organising social events and festival celebrations, as well as through our Aid Together humanitarian aid project.
After the commemoration, the delegation retired to a cafe for refreshments. Today, the traditional Jewish toast ‘L’chaim’ – ‘to life’, today of all days so fragile yet so precious – felt particularly poignant.
The Together Plan International Film Festival presents its final screening of 2017: Labyrinth of Lies.
Set 20 years after the end of the Holocaust, this compelling and challenging German film follows a young lawyer in his efforts to bring a former Auschwitz guard to justice. But in a time when the war is just a memory that most would gladly forget, he is forced to explore his country’s traumatic past and confront collective memory and guilt head-on.
As always, there will be delicious homemade cakes, thought-provoking discussion, and the chance to find out more about the issues raised in the film and the work of The Together Plan in rebuilding Judaism after the tragedies of the 20th century.
please join us for the launch of our friends’ scheme
with special guest speaker
Holocaust survivor Chairwoman, Minsk Ghetto Survivors’ Association
Thursday 30th November 2017 18:30-21:30 ORT House, 126 Albert St, London NW1 7NE [map]
We are delighted to invite you to join us for a drinks and canapés reception to celebrate the launch of our Friends’ Scheme.
We are very excited to be joined from Minsk by Frida Reisman (pictured right). Frida will be speaking to us about her experiences as a child living in the notorious Minsk Ghetto, as well as the impact of The Together Plan’s work on the lives of the Ghetto survivors, many of whom still live on the land the Minsk Ghetto once occupied.
There will also be the opportunity to meet The Together Plan supporters, volunteers and staff in an informal setting, and to learn about our vital work rebuilding community in the former Soviet Union.
For reasons of security advance registration is essential. RSVP online using the form below or by contacting The Together Plan office on 020 3375 0656 or at email@example.com.
reserve your place
Or sign up online to become a Friend
Get closer to what we do. Receive priority booking for events and trips. Be invited to our annual Friends event. Explore your heritage with us. Access our private reference library including rare books. Engage on a personal and meaningful level. Build life-long relationships. Be part of our vision and our Together Plan family. All for just £4 a month.
The Together Plan’s London co-director Debra Brunner was invited to attend the opening of the Sir Martin Gilbert Learning Centre at Highgate Synagogue. The Centre was officially opened by former UK prime minister Sir John Major.
Sir Martin Gilbert was the foremost Anglo-Jewish historian of his generation, and was a thoroughly respected and ubiquitous figure in both Jewish and academic circles. The official biographer of Churchill, Sir Martin passionately advocated for the plight of the Jews of the Soviet Union, championing the refusenik cause.
The Together Plan believes that the legacy of Sir Martin’s work around the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe must be maintained, and that we must reconnect with those Jews still living in the region, encouraging them to engage with their Judaism. The Together Plan will be featured permanently in the Sir Martin Gilbert Learning Centre, a new space from which we can engage people with the compelling Jewish story of the former Soviet Union.
The Together Plan once again brought Mitzvah Day International, the UK Jewish social action and tzedakah day, to our partner communities in Belarus.
This year we facilitated our largest ever number of social action initiatives, with activities happening simultaneously in Polotsk, Brest, Minsk, Slonim, Slutsk and Mogilev. In Slonim the communities laid flowers at the memorial to the victims of the Slonim Ghetto liquidation, and cleared rubbish and leaves from around the ruins of the Slonim Synagogue, alongside medical students from the city as well as our office team from Minsk, with the Israeli ambassador in attendance. In addition, The Together Plan visited the most vulnerable members of our communities, the elderly and infirm, delivering challot and other items.
At The Together Plan we believe that it is not enough simply to describe our UK annual social action day to communities in Belarus. Instead it is incumbent on us to empower our partner communities to feel independent and active, participate in tikkun olam (repairing the world) and do mitzvot in their own communities. This is a transformative process to witness, especially after the years of reliance on external agencies which fostered a culture of dependance. In their newly found self-sustainability, these communities are now encouraging their members to be a part of the community capacity building that is so sorely needed.
Join us for a fun-filled cultural evening to celebrate the relationship between Finchley Reform and the Jewish community in Polotsk, Belarus.
Explore the traditions and culture of Belarus through poetry, music, dance and cuisine. Sample Belarusian vodka, taste and learn to prepare traditional Belarusian favourites, and connect with likeminded people in a welcoming and informal setting, supporting The Together Plan to build lasting links with communities in the former Soviet Union.
Advance booking is essential. Please book by contacting The Together Plan on 020 3375 0656 or at firstname.lastname@example.org, or using the form below.
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