“Dobro pozhalovat” means “welcome” in Russian. That is exactly what Rabbi Ilana Baird was looking for when she came to Silicon Valley as a transplant from the Soviet Union and Israel, to volunteer at the Addison-Penzak JCC in 2011. She envisioned an intentionally curated path to welcome the diverse population of Russian-speaking Jewish children, adults, seniors, and families into the South Bay’s wider Jewish community.
Born out of the single monthly program that Rabbi Baird started just over 10 years ago, Jewish Silicon Valley’s Russian-Speaking Jewish Programs (RSJ) now include an extensive catalog of educational, social, and cultural opportunities for all ages, and today boasts a Facebook community of more than 1,700 people. Most importantly, Russian-speaking Jews in the region have a hub where they can connect, celebrate, learn and explore their Jewish identities. Rabbi Baird told the Jewish Federations of North America, “I see the community I built as Abraham’s tent, open on four sides. Everyone can come in through different entrances. Whether they come for music programs, mental health support, social activities, social justice, learning, or anything else — they are welcome.”
Two popular programs, HEDER (ages 3-9) and Club Mitzvah (ages 10-14) are unique ways for RSJ to welcome Russian-Speaking young people into Jewish life. RSJ is greatly supported by Russian-speaking community leaders, with dedicated volunteers working on everything from fundraising, to planning and organizing events.
RSJ’s unique mission to serve Russian-speaking Jews is another example of the inclusive community that Jewish Silicon Valley embodies as we “harness the power of community to improve lives, build bridges of understanding, and strengthen the Jewish people here, in Israel, and around the world.”