summit on the black sea

In May of 2007, Project Kesher brought 130 women ranging in age from 18 to 88 years old from the United States, Israel, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus to Ukraine for a Summit on the Black Sea.

Chaired by Project Kesher board members Michele Cohen of New York and Eunice Ward of Chicago, the trip, whose theme was "Project Kesher Comes of Age," marked thirteen years since Project Kesher's First International Conference of Jewish Women in Kiev.

With stops in Kiev, Simferopol and Yalta, the Summit on the Black Sea included site visits to Project Kesher programs, touring options, workshops with scholars-in-residence, home hospitality visits and briefings with local Jewish and government leaders. Eight Torah Scrolls were hand carried to the region as part of Phase II of Project Kesher's Torah Return Project. The project brings Torah Scrolls been donated by individuals and congregations in the United States to emerging CIS Jewish communities.

"There is no better way to showcase the impact Project Kesher is having in the region and the changes taking place in CIS civil society than by bringing people to see our work firsthand," says Project Kesher Executive Director Karyn Gershon. "The most powerful piece of what we do is to train women and girls to be leaders and social activists in their society. Our missions to the region are unique in that the Project Kesher women from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova travel alongside trip participants from the United States and Israel. We get to know one another through everyday interactions at meals or during programming, and as the week unfolds, the stories are told. What results is a week of genuine connections and a true partnership between our funders and the CIS Project Kesher activists who are changing their world."


The Summit on the Black Sea began in Kiev at the site of Babi Yar, the infamous ravine where in September 1941 the Nazis massacred 33,771 Jews in two days. Participants brought stones from their own communities to leave behind as part of a memorial service to honor and remember those who were lost. The trip culminated at Livadia Palace in Yalta six days later with the kick-off of a region-wide tolerance project based on the successful U.S. program, "Not in Our Town." Through this project, our CIS network will provide tools for communities to come together to prevent intolerance and to provide solutions when hate crimes do occur. As Jewish life across the region continues to be strengthened by our work, it is essential to develop a framework of tolerance in which it can thrive.