by Ronn Torossian | June 27, 2012 12:01 am
Today’s groundbreaking announcement that a charity founded by Russian Jewish billionaires has established a $1 Million annual prize to honor people who attribute their success to Jewish values is the continuation of the raising profile and great influence of Russian Jews. The award, called the Genesis Prize, will be financed by an endowment of about $50 million set up by three of Russian oligarchs – and am sure the greatness of Russian Jewish contribution to Jewish life worldwide will only continue to grow.
So many worldwide stood outside in the streets yelling “Let My People Go”, and today thankfully Russian Jews are free – and contribute to Jewish life in Israel and elsewhere in such wonderful ways. But there are so many Russian American Jews who can slip through the cracks.
Statistics have said that there are between 750,000 and 1 million Russian Jews in the United States – and few organizations focused on keeping the young generation amongst them Jewish. Perhaps the largest Jewish outreach organization in the US is RAJE – Russian American Jewish Experience – an organization whose motto is “From Let My People Go To Let My People Know.”
I am not Russian – but am proud to be on the board of RAJE (and our President is also not Russian – he’s just a proud Jew) – and the facts remain that Jews from the former Soviet Union have to be reconnected with their Heritage and the wider Jewish community, and so few are focused on it. Anyone who attends the Israel Day Parade couldn’t miss the RAJE contingency year after year – boisterous, active, proud Jewish youth – and from weddings to education, we succeed with these good tough Jews but there has to be more.
Young Russian Jews are the children and grandchildren of Refusniks – and the Jewish establishment isn’t paying enough attention to the community of young Jews. With 750 completing the RAJE program each year, and impacting a vast network of 16,000, with alumni led programming we simply need more help.
We need the focus and investment of the organized American Jewish community in much the same way as was needed in the days of the Soviet Jewry movement. While eyes will focus upon the annual prize of Russian Jewish billionaires in Israel, it is important to also draw attention to the demographic importance of the million strong Russian American Jewish community and to drive home the point that an investment in our future is an investment in the future of the Jewish people.
In a few short years, RAJE was able to demonstrate the potential of it’s model to have a transformative effect on a demographically significant scale. Over the next 10 years, RAJE’s goal is to expand its work into other cities with large Russian-American Jewish populations, such as Boston, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
As Jewish leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky said in 1937, “Jewish religious tradition is not an archaic object of our history, but an active pulsating power which exists today and will continue for all eternity.”
More information on RAJE is available by contacting Rabbi Mordechai Tokarsky at [email protected] or visit www.rajeusa.com
Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR agency and an active Jewish philanthropist.
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