Undergraduate Fellows’ Outreach Projects

Each undergraduate fellow of the BGI undertakes a community service project, either on campus or off campus, which connects them with the Jewish and/or Russian Jewish community. Here are brief descriptions of the undergraduate projects as of Fall 2010.

2010-2011 Outreach Projects


Diana Aronin and Julia Blanter

Diana and Julia helped raise awareness of the BGI and its events for the many Russian Jews at Brandeis who are not BGI Fellows by creating and will maintaining the BGI Facebook page and publicize BGI events.

Julia Rabkin, Lena Vaynberg, Karina Gaft, Dina Kapengut, Eli Tukachinsky and Eleazar Jacobs

Julia, Lena, Karina, Dina, Eli and Eleazer collected oral histories from some of the oldest members of the Russian-Jewish community in the United States who reside in the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center (HRC)...  Fellows formed relationships with the residents and recorded interviews, which focused on Soviet life, the immigration process, and life as an immigrant in the United States, The stories were compiled and shared with the general public. In addition, Fellows compiled the stories and photographs into two hard cover scrap books, one in Russian and the other in English.   These books had a strong impact on the elderly residents because it gave their life additional meaning to know that their story had been told and that they were leaving a legacy for the younger generations.

Helen Shapiro and Victor Zhivich

Helen and Victoracquainted the BGI with Russian-Jewish organizations in the Greater Boston Area. They created a database containing information on opportunities and existing activities for future BGI projects and increased BGI's presence in the community by forming meaningful connections with these organizations.

Annie Livit, Julie Livit and Lev Gorfinkel

Annie, Julie and Lev worked on a skit entitled Connection Through Laughter, to be performed for the BGI community in spring 2011. The skit shared the personal stories of Russian Jews living in the Boston-area who emigrated from Russia to Israel to the United States. The Fellows interviewed Russian Jews to collect information about life in Israel for Russian Jews post-WWII, immigration to the United States, and the differences between Russian Jews living in Israel and the United States.

Nera Lerner

Nera curated and organized the Babi Yar commemmorative symposium titled Faces of Babi Yar in Felix Lembersky's Art Presence and Absence for her Brandeis-Genesis Institute community project. The program also included a talk by Lembersky's granddaughter, the architect Yelena Lembersky, and a discussion of Soviet Jewry by two leading historians on the subject, Professor ChaeRan Freeze from the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Olga Litvak.

Avraham Eli Tukachinsky

Eli wrote, translated, and illustrated a Passover book for young Russian-speaking Jews. This book, in Eli's words, "Will fulfill my parents' prophecy that I would pass religious education on to youth in a fun, original way." The book's accessibility to young children will be Eli's active acknowledgement of his family's participation in holiday celebrations in protest of refusenik-era government policy in Russia.

Daniel Koch

Daniel continued his photography project from last year, a proposed exhibit of photography showing the essence of Russian Jewry in America. Daniel traveled to Brookline, Brooklyn, and his hometown of Fair Lawn, NJ to take photos. His presentation will be in the forms of both a slideshow on the BGI website and a photo book. So far he has generated 20 high-quality photos.

Julian Olidort

BGI held its first Retreat-Plus titled What I Think You Think of Me.  Julian lead a student committee consisting of fellows Julia Rabkin’11, Victor Zhivich’13, Danny Shpolyansky’14, and graduate fellows Vlad ‘Judah’ Khaykin’11 and Monica Pevzner’12, as well as key members of the non-Russian-speaking Jewish community, whose goal was to create a forum in which the dialogue between Jewish communities could begin. To foster a stronger connection between the Russian-Jewish community and the greater Jewish community at Brandeis, the retreat consisted of a short series of discussion-based events, including a screening of the movie Refusnik. During the day’s sessions, participants explored the Russian-speaking Jewish community and its place in modern society, and got exposure to the history of and relations among various Jewish communities in recent history.