Rebuilding the Jewish community in the wake of Communism is a complex and sensitive process. Many have lost their connection to traditions, practice and ritual, and even the concept of a mitzvah is something of an unknown. Volunteering and giving to the community is not the norm. The current climate perpetuates a ‘me-culture’, not a ‘we-culture’ and we continuously see this as we face the challenges of working in a post-Soviet country that today has a complicated political landscape. By taking Mitzvah Day to Belarus, not only does this give an opportunity for people to understand the concept of a mitzvah, but it also enables the communities to feel a part of the wider global Jewish community. It really is empowering and gives people a real sense of Jewish ‘togetherness’. This year we were able to bring Mitzvah Day to more communities than ever before:
People with special needs had an amazing day led by Boris Bachkovsky, one of our valued Together Plan team in Minsk. Boris volunteered his time to do extra training with the special needs community. Boris is himself wheelchair-bound as the result of an accident. He is Jewish and he is an award winner, having won wheelchair dancing competitions at the highest level. He received an award from Belarus’s President Alexander Lukashenko in 2010 – the medal for Labor Merits, in 2015 he won the Medal of Honour, and in 2018 the award for Best Worker of Physical Education. In 2019 he was awarded a Diploma from the Guinness Book of Belarus for his input into adaptive physical education.
Members of one of our valued charity partners in Belarus participated by doing gardening, park and monument cleaning and general housework for people.
Members of the Minsk Jewish Community spent the whole of Mitzvah Day visiting survivors of the Minsk Ghetto and their families.
The Lech Lecha youth group members helped to clean the Daumana Street Orthodox Synagogue in Minsk.
The Polotsk Jewish community, children and adults, baked cookies and made gift boxes, and delivered them to the elderly members of the community.
Members of the Slutsk Jewish community went on home visits to the elderly members and those who are unwell.
Younger members of the community-led workshops on Jewish traditions. Others delivered food and material aid to elderly and homebound members of the community.
The Lech Lecha Youth community in Minsk, posted on Facebook:
“Today guys from our #stars teamed up for a very cool event #mitzvahday. It was a great opportunity to feel like a part of a huge cause ✅ because today, on November 17, the youth of the world are doing good deeds together. Thank you so much everyone for participating in such a beautiful mitzvah 💚💚💚”