We started our first full day by exploring Kiev in the snow. We returned to the Brodsky synagogue where we observed the building’s architecture and learned about how synagogues survived by (visually) blending in.  We then traveled by bus to the center of the city and visited St. Andrew’s church and monestery with its picturesque bright blue exterior and gold domes against the now-heavy snow.

After a brisque walk we ate a delicious Ukrainian cafeteria lunch with every kind of food you could imagine.

Our visits to meet with Jewish professionals commenced after lunch. We went to the Vaad Association of Jewish organizations and communities and met with Josef Zisels who told us about his life as a Refusnik and in prison. He painted a picture of what life was like and how it is changing in Ukraine now.

We then visited Leonids Finberg at the Center of Eastern European Jewish Studies. Many students in the M.A. Program will be our counterparts after their graduation. The degree program (and their program of exhibitions, research, publishing, archiving historical material) is truly about giving Ukrainian Jewish culture to the Ukrainians in a way that makes them proud and responsible for their history. We witnessed this first-hand through wonderful visuals we  are bringing back.

To end our action-packed day, our exhausted cohort re-energized with Kiev Hillel. We bonded over a delicious dinner and desserts and deepened our conversations in small groups. It was a welcome and wonderful experience to bond with our peers abroad in such an open environment.

We hope that you will ask us about these experiences upon our return.  This was a wonderful beginning of a trip. Tomorrow will be just as busy, so a jet-lagged group is off to bed!


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