This week, 2,500 Birthright Israel alumni and friends gathered in Odessa, Ukraine as part of the largest Birthright Israel event ever to take place outside of Israel.
Once home to Revolutionary Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky and poet and thinker Chaim Bialik, Odessa has thrived as a historical and cultural center of Jewish life and ideas. While in 1939, a third of the population of pre-war Odessa was Jewish, the number has since dwindled to only one percent.
Today, the Jewish community of Odessa is beginning to thrive once again, strengthened by Birthright Israel which this summer alone sent more than 700 Ukrainian Jews to Israel. Birthright participants returning from the trip report a substantial impact on the importance they place on their Jewish identity, belonging to a Jewish community and being connected to Israel.
Sunday night’s event was designed to encourage potential Birthright candidates to sign up for the life changing trip. The event included a performance by Ukrainian band Boombox and was attended by Gidi Mark, Birthright Israel’s CEO, Odessa Deputy Mayor Pavel Vugelman, Gennady Gazin, the chairman of the Board of Directors of Genesis Philanthropy Group and delegations from Russia, Germany and Israel.
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