Ukrainian Teen Programs: Odessa

By Alisa, 14, of Odessa - translated by Hannah Miranda Miller

Last week, I attended a shabbaton hosted by Odessa’s JCC, Beit Grand for teenagers in Derekh – the youth club. The shabbaton’s theme, loosely based on Harry Potter, “the magic of knowledge” was held at a hotel, appropriately named Snow Queen.

Everything was, indeed, magical. We were sorted into three Hogwarts styled houses, each one with a specific Jewish focus like history and culture. My house focused on Jewish traditions.

(Just like in Harry Potter, the sorting hat chose a group for each of us when we arrived at the Shabbaton and mine was "Grisherin", which focused on Jewish traditions)

The new information and the knowledge that came with it served us well in the magical games we played throughout the shabbaton.  Every new holiday or tradition our group learned had to be drawn on large posters which helped us learn the material. Most importantly, it was fun and interesting!

(This is me (on the far right) with members of my group explaining the rites of passage that a Jewish girl will go through in her lifetime-from naming ceremony to bat mitzvah to chuppah)

At times we were assigned secret missions via SMS to obtain extra points for our house. The funniest and strangest mission was to steal all the madrichim’s (staff members’) toothbrushes.  At the end of the shabbaton points were counted. Unfortunately, my house did not win – Jewish culture did, focusing on different Jewish artists, musicians and films.

(This is me learning about rules of modest dress according to traditional Judaism)

Of course we also celebrated Shabbat! Like a family, we gathered around a table – girls said the prayer over the candles and boys over wine and challah. The next night, we bid farewell to the Shabbat Queen over Havdallah.


This year, we are trying to connect Jewish teenagers, like those in Odessa, in Ukraine to each other through seminars and retreats and to BBYO international. Every week, I will be showcasing a different community and their teen club. Help us strengthen the Jewish world by connecting Jewish teens to one another. Learn more by clicking on the following link.


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