MERCAZ USA - The Zionist Organization of the Conservative Movement
MERCAZ USA

March 2012 MERCAZ USA Purim E-letter Adar 5772

WELCOME to the new
MERCAZ USA E-Letter being sent to MERCAZ members and supporters. Information to Unsubscribe is available below.

MERCAZ USA is the Zionist membership organization of the Conservative Movement, the voice of Conservative Jewry within the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Zionist Movement and the Jewish National Fund to support religious pluralism in Israel and strengthen the connection between Israel and the Diaspora. Click here to learn how MERCAZ USA's involvement in the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency for Israel benefits the entire Conservative Movement. Click here to (re)join for the current 2011-2012 fiscal year.

NEWS

SYNAGOGUE TRIPS TO ISRAEL
Looking to join an organized trip to Israel? Click here for a list of upcoming Conservative Movement synagogue trips for 2012.

MERCAZ USA IS NOW ON FACEBOOK & TWITTER
Take the time now to "friend" us as well as "follow us" and let everyone know. Find us at www.facebook.com/mercazusa and twitter.com/mercazusa.

MERCAZ-AZM PURIM CONNECTION
This year, the annual Purim Connection, organized by the American Zionist Movement and its affiliates including MERCAZ USA, seeks to bring "light and gladness" to the Lone Soldiers associated with the Moreshet Yisrael IDF Program and the children of the Neve Hanna Village. Click here to make your donation. The deadline for donations has been extended to March 8. Please don’t delay!

MERCAZ USA/CANADA – WOMEN'S LEAGUE ESSAY CONTEST
The biennial essay contest for scholarships to teen Israel programs is off and running. The theme of this year's competition is "Making the Desert Bloom," in recognition of the breakthroughs in "green technology" that Israel has been developing. Five scholarships in the amounts of $1,000, $600, $400 and $250 (2x) will be awarded. The competition is open to all teenagers who are members of a Conservative congregation. Click here for the entry form and questions. Deadline is March 30, 2012.

MERCAZ/ISRAEL ADVOCACY TRAINING SEMINAR, APRIL 22-23, IN CHICAGO
Following on the successful first MERCAZ/Conservative Movement Israel Advocacy Training Seminar, which was held this past December near Baltimore, MD, MERCAZ is now planning a new Advocacy Seminar this April in the Chicago area. Click here for more information. Click here to register.

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FEATURE STORY

MASORTI JUDAISM'S FIRST UKRAINIAN RABBI

Earlier this month, Reuven Stamov was ordained as the 82nd graduate of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminar, the first Ukrainian Jew to be ordained a Masorti Rabbi.

A graduate of the Schorsch Fellowship, a program operated by Masorti Olami to support rabbinical students who commit to working in a developing Masorti community in Europe for several years after their ordination, Stamov was born in Simferopol in the Crimean region of Ukraine in 1974 to a secular Jewish family. He always knew he was Jewish, but during the period of the Soviet regime, practicing his Judaism was forbidden.

As the Soviet period came to an end, unlike many other Ukrainian Jewish families, the Stamovs decided to stay in Ukraine, and Stamov became involved in Jewish communal educational activities. Throughout the 1990's his commitment to Judaism, the Jewish community and Jewish/Zionist education grew. This led him to be invited to be a counselor at the Schechter Institute's Midreshet Yerushalayim "Ramah-Yachad" summer camp for Jewish children in Ukraine.

Rabbi Stamov says that his passion for Jewish life and his eventual move to Israel in 2003 led him to a natural conclusion that studying to become a Masorti Rabbi was his destiny. Throughout his studies he worked with Midreshet Yerushalayim and in partnership with Masorti Olami, travelling to Ukraine several times each year to run seminars, summer camp, a successful conversion program as well as many other projects which have developed the foundations for a vibrant Masorti movement in Ukraine.

He even met his wife Lena during one of these trips in 2004, and the couple now has two daughters, Miriam and Alisia.

As the article about Rabbi Stamov in the Ha'aretz newspaper states, "Stamov is a Cinderella story of the Conservative world," one that took courage, commitment and significant dedication.

Stamov is now moving to Ukraine with his wife and children, making Kiev their new home. There, he and his wife will start their work in the development of a stable and strong Masorti Jewish community in Kiev and other parts of the country. His vision is for an active and flourishing Masorti community which welcomes members who are proud to be Jewish and observant of Jewish values and practice.

Masorti Olami and the Schechter Institute have organized a mission to Ukraine, July 11th to 17th, to celebrate Rabbi Stamov's installation as the country's first Masorti rabbi. The 7-day trip to Odessa and Kiev is designed to explore Jewish and Zionist history in Ukraine and to celebrate this important milestone in the renaissance of Jewish life in the country. For more information, go to www.masortiworld.org/ukraine2012 for a full itinerary and to download a registration form.

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