BGI Undergraduate Fellows Study, Bond and Sing Together at Fall Retreat

OCTOBER 8 - 10, 2010

The twenty-one BGI undergraduate fellows participated in their second annual fall retreat at Camp Ramah in Palmer, Massachusetts.

The retreat was an opportunity for students to get to know one another, to reflect together about big ideas, and to celebrate Russian Jewish culture together.

On arrival on Friday afternoon, students chose between an informal service to welcome Shabbat and a meditative reflection.  The afternoon and evening featured improvisational games organized by retreat leader Bradley Solmsen, along with BGI Hornstein Fellows Julia Smirnova and Monica Pevzner.

Saturday featured a mixture of serious conversation and rollicking fun. Conversation sessions included a discussion of the short story "Mistress," by Lara Vapnyar (who later visited Brandeis and met with the fellows on November 3) and a discussion of the week's Torah portion, the story of Noah.

Professor Irina Dubinina led an intense and emotional discussion in Russian of about the Nazi atrocities in Babiy Yar, Leningrad and other cities of the Soviet Union.  She presented works of literature as well as artistic and documentary videos that evoked the unspeakable suffering of the Soviet people of all ethnicities from the invading Germans during World War II.  Despite, or perhaps because of its very serious nature, the majority of students found this session to be one of the highlights of the weekend.

In the evening, the group sang Russian songs and celebrated together around a roaring bonfire that lit up the autumn night.

On Sunday morning, students shared ideas about their ongoing projects, which involve them in service to the Russian and Jewish communities.