The Together Plan delivers resources and enables support from Rabbis, lay leaders, teachers and informal Jewish educators.
Survival to revival
Between 1941 and 1945 the Nazis systematically exterminated 90% of the region's Jews. Those that survived experienced further destruction of their communities under the Soviet government's policy of atheism - religious practice was banned and community gatherings persecuted. The authorities fostered mistrust and suspicion of others as a means of enforcing control.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Jewish life has seen a small revival. But the legacy of the Soviet era seriously restricts communities' potential. The Together Plan works closely with its partner communities, helping them to rediscover Jewish traditions and acquire the skills and confidence to revive.
Education is vital to the future of any community
We help our communities to establish and run educational programmes for a wide range of age and interest groups, including:
- Community Sunday Schools for children of primary school age, teaching Hebrew and Jewish traditions alongside subjects such as English and Music, through fun and engaging activities
- B'nei Mitzvah training in partnership with experienced Jewish educators and lay leaders across Belarus and the UK
- Youth leadership training, helping the community's newest active members translate their enthusiasm into effective programmes for their community's youth
- Adult education sessions, such as English or cookery classes
- Festival celebrations, targeted at kids and adults alike and combining traditional practices with engaging activities and accessible explanations
- The annual Youth For Youth summer camp, which introduces Jewish concepts in an accessible manner through fun and exciting activities
We facilitate access to training and resources
The key to successful education is good teachers. We facilitate and fund distance learning courses in Hebrew, and provide teacher training by professional Jewish educators. The Together Plan partners with the Eize Kef Hebrew programme. Eize Kef is based on games and activities and is designed to mimic natural learning. We have arranged training for Belarusian young adults with the creator of Eize Kef, both remotely and in person. These young adults now teach Hebrew in their own communities, and also visit other communities to share their skills.
We also fund educational resources, from stationery and whiteboards to the components of the Eize Kef course.
We encourage communities to support each other
That way, each community can benefit from our collective experience. Summer camp in particular brings together young adults across Belarus and the UK. Younger youth leaders learn from their more experienced peers, and formal leadership training is also provided. Over the past six years, we have run summer camps in two Belarusian communities, and will move to a third in 2017. By the time we move on, young adults in host communities have the experience and confidence to run highly successful summer camps and other programmes on their own.
With our support, communities learn to hold Shabbat, B'nei Mitzvah and more
Jewish traditions provide an anchor for communities
Most Jews in the former Soviet Union know that they are Jewish, but don't know what to do with this information. Where The Together Plan has worked to revive traditions and engage the Jewish community, people have discovered a sense of identity and pride in their heritage. And actively exploring those traditions and sharing them with the community brings a sense of purpose to their lives.
We help communities rediscover their traditions
The Together Plan provides education and guidance about Jewish traditions including Shabbat, festivals and the B'nei Mitzvah process. We have created a guide to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah process, which is used to prepare B'nei Mitzvah students in several communities across Belarus. Currently we are making a guide to Kabbalat Shabbat, to help lay leaders to explore this much-loved tradition with their communities.
We also establish contact between communities and Rabbis and Jewish leaders across Europe, so that communities can ask questions and discover more about their traditions.
Each community is part of the Jewish people
At The Together Plan, we believe that Judaism should bring communities together. All the communities we work with benefit from each other's support and friendship and are enriched by each community's unique character.
Relationships have no borders
We are passionate about building relationships between people in the UK, Belarus and elsewhere. Our flagship B'nei Mitzvah twinning programme pairs a young person from the UK with one from Belarus. Twins write to and Skype with each other, supporting each other through their Bar or Bat Mitzvah, and develop lasting connections and friendships. In the past we have run trips to Belarus for B'nei Mitzvah twins, so that they could be at their twin's Bar or Bat Mitzvah. More info
We are currently developing a Sunday School student sponsorship programme. This will not only fund a child's Jewish education, but will also provide a fantastic opportunity. both for the child and their sponsor, to learn about each other's worlds and forge lasting friendships. More info
Nobody is excluded
Even the most vulnerable person in society has a right to their Judaism and to community life. The Together Plan works with communities to develop programmes that benefit these individuals. We also train community leaders to apply for funds to support their community's vulnerable members, increasing the community's independence.
For example, in Polotsk, community members have started a project to take Shabbat to the homes of people who are unable to make the journey to the community centre. Many of these people will not have many other visitors and this may be their only connection to the community, so it can be truly life-changing.