Rovno is an historic 700-year old town in the Western Ukraine situated by the Ossetia River. It has long been inhabited by Jews and records how it has had a Jewish population since at least the 15th century.
Jewish life in Rovno has experienced massive peaks and troughs. It was a result of Jewish initiative and effort that saw the development of the city and made it prosper. In periods of peace, Jews constructed fine houses, synagogues, schools and communal buildings. In times of unrest, Jews suffered the violence of pogroms, arson attacks, and most tragically, the decimation of the Jewish population, which constituted over half the town’s population in 1941, by the Nazis. They killed 23,000 Jews in a pine grove outside Rovno and then later transported the remaining 5,000 who had been forced into the city ghetto.
Today, miraculously, there is a renewal of Jewish life, due to the extraordinary efforts of Rabbi Schneer Schneersohn and his wife Rachel. I met Rabbi Schneersohn in 2004 when he boarded my coach while I was on a trip with Norrice Lea Synagogue (twinned with the city of Lvov) to visit famous Jewish towns between Kiev and Lvov. He appeared somewhere near the renowned Zionist poet Bialik’s hometown and he told us of his efforts to open a Jewish nursery in Rovno. He told us how he had been met with incredulity and told he would be lucky to get five children to attend a Jewish school. However, on the day it opened, 25 children appeared. This was a ‘Eureka’ moment for me as we in Muswell Hill had just opened Yeladenu, our own nursery.
The prospect of twinning the two nurseries occurred to me. The idea was appealing as the size of the Rovno nursery was similar to that of ours. The twinning of the two nurseries then got under way and children exchanged photos, drawings and letters. Since then our twinning programme has expanded beyond the nurseries to include bar and bat mitzvah twinning, exchange of mishloach manot packages with our cheder children and a skype conference in Rabbi Mason’s bar and bat mitzvah class. Muswell Hill has held a number of annual fundraising events including a dinner featuring the Stewart Curtis klezmer band and food with an Eastern Europe flavour, the wonderful actor Saul Reichlin performing his one-man show of Sholom Aleichem stories and the Israeli film Jellyfish.
The purpose of our twining is not only to raise badly needed funds for youth programmes and supply money for educational equipment in Rovno but to form a two-way communication channel between our communities. We aim both to bolster and support as well as raise awareness of the miracle of rebirth of Jewish life in Rovno following the terrors of the past and the almost entire destruction of the Jewish population during the last war. The exchanges between the two communities have benefitted both and has produced many heart warming moments such as the excitement of our cheder children as they munched on kosher crisps which had Ukrainian script on the package. This has been followed by question and answer sessions with Rabbi Schnneersohn during skype hookups when our children asked about life in the Rovno community.
We are very pleased to be organising another fundraising event this year:
THE BALANESCU QUARTET
SUNDAY 25 NOVEMBER 2012 8pm
Tickets will be priced at £17 with an early bird price of £15 before 4 November, includes light refreshments.
Please contact Jackie Waltz: email firstname.lastname@example.org
Mobile 07940 920 148 Or contact Jo Cowan in the shul office for bookings or further information: email@example.com tel. 020 8883 5925
NOT TO BE MISSED UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!!!!!!!
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