Meet Olya Elshanksy, our new RSJ Director of Jewish Education!

My name is Olya. I was born and raised in Moscow, lived in Israel and for the last 2 years I have been living in Kyiv, Ukraine.

When I was around 6 years old (the age of primary school in Russia) my father ( “a Soviet Union Jew”, meaning he only knew he was Jewish because he “looked Jewish “and had problems because of it) decided his children should go to a Jewish Day school and be “real Jewish.”

So my sister and I brought the first Shabbat candles home to our family and taught my parents how to light hanukiah.

Now, please, enter the time machine and move to the future, passing through the years of school and University (BA in Oriental Studies, Jewish Literature, History and Hebrew).

It was a week before Pesach in 2009 when my friends and I we were trying to find a Pesach Seder to join. In a city of 14 million we couldn’t find one. Everything was not perfect. And then someone told me: if there is no Pesach Seder we want to join, let’s organize it for ourselves.

And so we did. We hosted at our friends apartment and it was amazing. Afterwards we hosted a Rosh Hashanah Party and a Sukkot event. My Israeli friends told me about a project called Moishe House where essentially we can do the same thing that we were already doing except receive funding and rent subsidy for it. We thought, why not, and sent in our applications.

The year I lived in MoHoMo (Moishe House Moscow) was a great and meaningful one. I can’t even count how many events and people I have hosted and how much I learned during that time…Never try to wash dishes in the jacuzzi even if the faucet in the kitchen is broken, and never hang toilet paper on the lamp, even if you think that’s a great idea to use it as a roll of paper napkins while watching the movie…And the last piece of advice, if David Cygielman wants to visit you — leave the house with enough time before his plane lands, and make sure you look at his Facebook photos so you know who he is!

(time machine, again)

Now I’m the RSJ Director of Jewish Education, very grown up and serious, and will answer several important questions.

1. If you were elected leader of the free world, what is the first thing you would do?
I would make it possible to travel around the world without visas and expensive flights.

2. What do you want for Hanukkah?
Actually I’m half way there and already ordered one — Ceramic handmade Hanukiah from the Moscow ceramic studio where artists are special needs children and adults.

3. What is your favorite kitchen appliance and why?
Cezve. Do you know what is it? Come to visit me and try a real black turkish coffee :)

4. Would you be more likely to win a dance battle or a rap battle?
I wouldn’t participate in battles, but dance.

5. What is your favorite thing about the city you live in?
My favorite is to watch people in the transport, streets and small cafes.

— Olya Elshansky, RSJ Director of Jewish Education

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