More than 150 Jewish professionals from across the former Soviet Union recently participated in JDC’s sixth annual Jewish Educators’ Conference, held at the Hesed Eliyahu social welfare center in Tbilisi, Georgia.

The group represented educators and Jewish communal professionals representing 46 cities in seven countries. Over the course of five days, renowned lecturers from across the FSU and Israel spoke on a wide range of topics, like: anti-Semitism, Israeli cinema, symbolism in the Torah, satire in the Talmud, and more.

The summit also continued the cooperation between JDC in the FSU and JDC’s Ashalim partnership in Israel, which works to support and protect at-risk youth through formal education initiatives, youth entrepreneurship and employment programming, alternative learning spaces, community-building models, and programs that will help engender safe home environments and healthy relationships between parents and children.

Iris Finkelstein, an Ashalim staffer from the program’s Volunteer Unit, led a session on creating “volunteer centers” in Jewish communities throughout the FSU, providing participants with practical volunter management tools and motivating them for the hard but important work of training and retaining volunteers.

“This training helped me put together the pieces to create a strategy for starting an effective volunteer center. I also learned that there is a network of people to consult with to help me as I continue this learning process!” said Alex, the volunteer coordinator in Kazan, Russia. “I have received constructive tips from so many people here. It will certainly help me in my day-to-day work moving forward.”

For many participants, the chance to network with colleagues from different countries was a key part of the conference’s success.

“These meetings give me energy for the whole year,” said Irina, a Jewish educator who lives in Taganrog, Russia. “The time spent with other Jewish professionals gives me the spirit to push myself even further in my work to help my Jewish community.”

Courtesy JDC