Greetings from Moldova! Today (or several days ago…we’ve been up for so long at this point I’ve lost track!) the 8 Hornstein travelers gathered at JFK to begin our long journey east. After a quick layover in Munich we landed safely–and happily–in Chisinau, Moldova. There was no rest for us and as soon as we met our tour guide, Dasha, at the airport, we had a quick and delicious lunch and began our journey of exploring the Moldova Jewish community.

Day 1 - President

Hornstein student Noah presents Alex Balinsky with a certificate of appreciation

Our first stop was a meeting with Alex Balinsky and Marina Lecartseva, President and CEO respectively of the Jewish Community of Moldova. This was a great session to start our trip with as both speakers discussed a brief history of the Jewish community in Moldova, how it has changed over time, and what the current issues facing the community are. We learned that the Moldova Jewish community has gotten increasingly smaller since World War II, with anywhere between 12,000-20,000 Moldovan Jews currently residing in the country. We also found out that Moldova only has one rabbi for the whole country! Speaking to the greatest issues the Moldovan Jewish community faces today, President Alex Balisnky stated that the Jewish community will continue to shrink because of poor economic conditions in the country, with 7 out of every 10 people leaving because of the economy. Additionally, the Moldovan Jewish community is aging, with more and more young Jews leaving for better conditions abroad.

Day 1 - JCC

The Hornstein students and Haverim participants speak in small groups about Jewish culture and identity

 After this first eye opening session, we travelled to the Kishinev Jacobs Jewish Campus to meet with representatives from the Kedem JCC and the Youth Haverim Club. It was amazing to see how Jewish life in Moldova is being represented by these organizations, drawing individuals in from a wide variety of backgrounds. I learned the most from meeting with the teens involved in the Youth Haverim Club, an organization dedicated to fostering a strong, young adult Jewish community in Moldova. It was fascinating to hear that many of these young people didn’t become aware of their Jewish heritage until much later in their life due to issues with family documents during the Soviet Union era. Even though many didn’t discover this part of their identity until relatively recently, it was amazing to see that they wanted to be involved in Jewish life in Moldova and wanted to form a community of engaged young adults. The intimate groups encounters that we had between the Hornstein community and the Youth Haverim Club was definitely the highlight of my day.

As I finish typing this blog post, my eyes are getting droopy and my bed is calling my name. If today was any indication, this is going to be a revealing and fascinating week and I look forward to more deeply exploring both the Moldovan and Ukrainian Jewish communities!

Stay tuned for more daily updates throughout the week, and like our Facebook page for the latest photos!


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