From Melbourne to Sydney With Love:
By Sarah Bendetsky.
On 23-24 October, over 1 million Jews around the world marked the International Shabbat Project with communal challah baking sessions, festive dinners and Havdallah concerts.
Among them, more than 100 Russian Jewish community members in Sydney attended the communal Shabbat Dinner, hosted by volunteer-driven organisation Subbotnik, Hillel Sydney, F.R.E.E./ Chabad Bondi and Kangarusski.
Established in April 2015 by a group of Russian-speaking volunteers in Melbourne, Subbotnik’s philosophy is simple – to share the joy of Judaism in the most inclusive way and to strengthen community spirit by organising events, programs and learning opportunities ‘where Russian culture meets Jewish tradition’.
Being a very first Subbotnik in Sydney, the event proved to be a great success uniting volunteers and guests from Melbourne and Sydney.
Prior to the dinner, volunteers gathered at ‘Our Big Kitchen’, Sydney’s iconic cooking spot, where they cooked authentic Russian Jewish dishes and baked challah bread guided by volunteer Mila Rodov of Mila’s Kosher Catering.
Meanwhile, other helpers were busy decorating the hall at F.R.E.E./Chabad Bondi, recreating the Melbourne Subbotnik experience.
Volunteer Natalya Mendelevich said,
“Subbotnik has given me an experience to be a part of the Russian Jewish community, where everyone feels welcome and truly belongs. This beautiful community project has opened the doors for people to collaborate and envision a better future for the Russian Jewish community in Australia.”
And finally, more than 100 Russian-speaking community members arrived for a warm, family-oriented Shabbat ‘with Russian flavor.’ Since the event started an hour before Shabbat, participants were able to light candles in honour of Shabbat, take heartwarming photos and meet and greet.
During the dinner, the Subbotnik guests enjoyed a delicious 4-course meal, sparks of Torah wisdom by Rabbi Yehoram Ulman and Rabbi Eli Schlanger, entertainment by well-known Sydney MC Garry Volk, comedy skits by writer and Co-Founder of Subbotnik Sarah Bendetsky, as well as schmoozing, singing and meeting new friends (some of whom arrived all the way from Melbourne for Subbotnik.)
Participants Ada and Mark Khutoretsky said,
“It was encouraging to see so many people coming together to share interesting stories jokes, enjoy excellent food and feel the warmth and determination of volunteers which was of high standards.”
Kangarusski Sydney Coordinator and event organiser Anna Maylis said,
“Subbotnik was amazing in many ways: it was amazing to meet more than 100 guests of all ages and see how much they enjoyed the evening; it was amazing to sense the feeling of togetherness and belonging to something hugely important; amazing to see people volunteering before and after the event; amazing to read and hear all your lovely feedback and kind words… To our community — thank you for sharing our enthusiasm!”
Shailee Mendelevich, Assistant Director Hillel Sydney and event organiser added,
“We were ecstatic about the success of Subbotnik. As with the previous events, the Russian community welcomed the opportunity to meet one another and celebrate Jewish identity in a beautiful Shabbat experience. We are especially grateful to the Melbourne committee for their support and look forward to many more partnered programs.”
Rabbi Yehoram Ulman said,
“On behalf of F.R.E.E./Chabad Bondi, I congratulate Subbotnik and the affiliated organisations for their tireless efforts to host the Shabbat Project. The community really enjoyed it and looks forward to future events.”
Subbotnik’s Co-Founder Avi Bendetsky said,
“It’s hard to believe what we, as a small group of Russian-speaking volunteers, were able to achieve in less than six months. Thanks to the incredible support from our community and our partners, we were able to bring closer over 550 Russian Jews in Australia. During these months, we celebrated Shabbat and other Jewish holidays in a unique, Jewish-Russian way; with glowing eyes and words of inspiration, with homemade food and plans for future growth… What can I say; miracles do happen; especially when you give them a chance.”
At the moment, the Subbotnik team is getting ready for its next event, Mitzvah Day at Montefiore Homes in Melbourne, run in partnership with Jewish Care Victoria and the Global Day of Jewish Learning.
Organisers extend their gratitude to the Organising Committee, businesses and community organisations for their kind support of Subbotnik in Sydney including Hillel Sydney, Kangarusski, F.R.E.E./Chabad Bondi, Mila’s Kosher Catering, Corporate Designs, VESC Building and Maintenance Services, Binyan Studios, Russki Deli, Margarita’s Loans and Finances, BAS N MORE Bookkeeping Services, Passionate Catering and sponsors Svetlana Finkin, Roman Altarkovski, Vadim Lekhin, Leo Novikov, Olga Wolfson, Arthur and Sogia Sheina Shisman and Yuri Raymon.
Our thanks goes to many volunteers who dedicated their time and spirit to make the event truly special including Mila Rodov, Tamara Shafirova, Inna Polura, Paula Dvuchbachny, Stella Dvuchbachby, Ilona Blomberg, Miriam and Yisroel Dolnikov, Shailee Mendelevich, Natalya Mendelevich, Anna Maylis, Rabbi Yehoram Ulman and Rabbi Eli Schlanger, Alona Krapivin, Ariel Krapivin, Alina Zamel-Well, Sam Well and Arthur and Sofia Sheina Shisman.
To find out more about Subbotnik and to help cover the cost of events by donating and volunteering, please contact Sarah Bendetsky on 0468 333 770, visit the Subbotnik Facebook page or www.subbotnik.org.au or email firstname.lastname@example.org