Jewish Center of Ulyanovsk

Over 120 young men and women enjoyed an incredible four day shabbaton in Ulyanovsk, Russia! The minus 30 degree weather didn’t stop these youth from attending! Although most of the participants were from Ulyanovsk, many youth came from Nizhniy Novgorod, Tolyatti, Penza, Samara and Moscow. The attendees of this shabbaton included: 70 youth and young couples, over 30 adults, and over 20 children! For the four day duration of this shabbaton there was a special youth seminar, a seminar for adults, and a special children’s program.

The shabbaton took place in the newest and most beautiful resort in Ulyanovsk: “Arkhiangilskaya Slabada”. The resort is located on the banks of the Volga River, in the middle of a pine forest. The resort is made of many different size cottages, all one hundred percent wood. The interiors reflect the pristine beauty and harmony of nature. Although everything is hand crafted from wood, it has all the modern amenities accustomed at modern luxurious resorts. The main building has a restaurant, a huge hall, conference rooms and an incredible children’s indoor fun center.

For four days, the participants heard fascinating lectures by Rabbis flown in from Israel and Moscow, as well as Rabbi Fischer from Tolyatti and Rabbi Savinov from Penza. Some of the workshop and lecture topics included: “Shabbat for Jews or Jews for Shabbat?”, “Anti-Semitism”, “Why get married?”, “Heroism and sacrifice in Judaism”, “Torah and evolution”, “Jewish leadership”, and “Tzedakah”.

There was a special barbecue on Thursday night for the youth. They sang songs while our community president, Igor Dabakarov, played guitar. They asked the Rabbis questions, and had delicious barbecued chicken and vegetables. On Friday, the girls and women had fun braiding dough and making their own challah. Friday night began with Shabbat candle lighting, followed by a very lively Kabalat Shabbat, filled with many songs. Rabbi Yossi Marozov captivated the crowd with his talk about the weekly Torah portion. During the delicious Shabbat meal there was words of Torah, singing, and games. After the meal, there was a Farbrengen held till the wee hours of the night.

On Shabbat morning the participants had a choice of either attending a class named “Prayer for Dummies” or a minyan. During the reading of the Torah, the crowd was told to pay attention to the reading by counting the number of times a particular word has been read. Whoever knew the correct number of times the word was said, received a huge chocolate bar. On Shabbat afternoon, there was a grand forum where people asked questions about G-d and his existence, how we know the Torah is true, why we keep mitzvos and many other interesting topics. The forum was followed by an educational game called “brain ring”.

Havdallah was an hour long ceremony. It began with our musical specialist, Igor Dabakarov, playing guitar Bukhari style. The crowd joined in by singing and dancing. Saturday night we had our grand banquet with music, competitions, singers, dance shows, disco dancing and karaoke.

Everybody left with warmth towards Judaism! For some this was their first time keeping shabbat, for others the first time putting on tefilin. Many were inspired to attend synagogue more often. For some it was a time to look for a Jewish spouse – a shidduch. For everybody who came it was a shabbos they will never forget!

This project was made possible by the generosity of Mr. Mikhail Mikahilovitch Mirashvili. The lecturers have been provided by “Or Zion movement”.

May this winter shabbaton become an annual tradition for Ulyanovsk!

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