“Torah changed my life,” says Inna Sigal. “Now, Torah is my life.” Inna is an enthusiastic participant in Rabbi Ilana Baird’s weekly Russian Torah Study class, which Inna began attending in November 2013.
Studying Torah was something Inna could not do as a child in Odessa, Ukraine. Her grandfather had been a shtetl rabbi, but by the time Inna was growing up, Ukraine was under the control of Russia, which forbade Jewish religious practice. Inna’s family could only practice their Judaism in secret. The family clandestinely celebrated Jewish holidays. When Inna’s father died, they had to bury his Torah and tallit with him.
Inna and her husband, son, mother and mother-in-law immigrated to San Jose in December 1988.
Just a few months after immigrating here, Inna joined Congregation Beth David, where she could openly practice Judaism. Then, in 1998, Inna began taking Judaism and Hebrew classes at synagogue.
When Rabbi Ilana Baird of the Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center (part of Jewish Silicon Valley) began Torah study classes in Russian, Inna was excited to begin studying. “The Torah study classes are the best,” Inna says. “We get to study Torah in Russian and have lively discussions every week.”
Inna adds, “We read the Torah from beginning to end every year. There is always something new that comes out, like we were reading it for the first time. I find examples from Torah that speak to my life, and examples in my life that speak to Torah.”
Inna shares her weekly Torah studies with her husband, Alexander, who is also retired. The Russian Jewish program through Rabbi Ilana Baird’s weekly Torah study has become the center of Inna’s life, both for the study of Torah and the community of fellow former Soviet Jews with whom Inna studies.