Translation of Minsk Ghetto survivors’ memories reaches a new milestone

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The Together Plan’s project to translate the memories of survivors of the Minsk Ghetto into English moved a step closer to completion this morning, as the process of editing and proofreading the first draft got underway. Volunteers Hilda Bronstein and Bett Demby joined The Together Plan’s director Debra Brunner to begin converting the draft translation into a publishable book.

The book contains the stories of the survivors of the Minsk Ghetto, notorious throughout Europe for its exceptionally horrific conditions. The ghetto was destroyed in 1942 and its inhabitants massacred. Decades later, some of the few survivors wrote down their recollections, and the compilation was published in small numbers in Russian under the title “We Remember! We Bequeath to the World our Memories…” The Together Plan is collaborating with the Jewish Genealogical Society‘s Yizkor book project to translate and publish the book in English.

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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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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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