1,200 former Soviet Jews expected at 15th International Russian-Jewish Shabbaton

Rabbi Bentzion Laskin: “The speakers, entertainers and guests will increase everyone’s sense of unity, Jewish pride and connection to their heritage.” 

Participants at a former Russian-Jewish Shabbaton. Credit: Courtesy.
Participants at a former Russian-Jewish Shabbaton. Credit: Courtesy.

More than 1,000 former Soviet Jews from the United States, Canada and Israel are ready to gather at the Hilton Hotel in Parsippany, N.J., for the 15th annual International Russian-Jewish Shabbaton.

The annual retreat—to take place from March 29-31—represents a chance for Jewish individuals and families with roots in the Soviet Union to experience an inspirational, authentic Shabbat with engaging activities such as challah-baking, prayer services, educational workshops, inspirational seminars, live entertainment, singles’ speed-dating program and a day camp for children.

The International Russian-Jewish Shabbaton remains a leading program aimed at strengthening the Jewish identity of Russian-speaking Jews. In the wake of Hamas terrorist attacks in southern Israel on Oct. 7 and amid increased antisemitism, this weekend holds additional meaning for Jews from the former Soviet Union, many of whom have family in Israel and have personally experienced state-sponsored antisemitism.

“This Shabbaton has become an annual tradition for thousands of ex-Soviet Jews and their families, who make up approximately 10% of all American Jews,” says Rabbi Bentzion Laskin, program director at Chamah and organizer of the Shabbaton. “The theme is ‘Am Yisrael Chai,’ and our incredible assortment of speakers, entertainers and inspirational guests will increase everyone’s sense of unity, Jewish pride and connection to their heritage.”

This year’s event will have a special focus on dating, matchmaking and marriage, featuring workshops by Netflix’s “Jewish Matchmaker” Aleeza Ben Shalom; “YouTube’s most watched rabbi” Manis Friedman; and noted educator Rabbi Yisroel Bernath, who will lead a series of speed-dating events, dating-coach mentorships and one-on-one sessions.

The Shabbaton is hosted jointly by Lubavitch Youth Organization, the programming arm of Chabad-Lubavitch; and Chamah, the Chabad-affiliated organization to support Soviet Jews.

“Celebrating Jewish pride is the strongest rebuttal to those who want us to be afraid,” said Kasriel Kastel, program director at Lubavitch Youth Organization. “Many participants have relatives in Israel and feel the added importance of gathering with their people.”

The lineup of speakers and educators also includes Yair Ansbacher, strategic counter-terrorism consultant for the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office; Rabbi Yehoram Ulman, head of the rabbinical court in Sydney, Australia; Isabella Reichel, a professor and researcher at Touro University; and Itay Milner, spokesperson and consul for media affairs at the Israeli Consulate in New York.

Laskin noted that “the weekend brings together all sectors of the community—Russian, Ukrainian, Bukharian, Kavkazi, Israeli-Russians and others will all come together to celebrate Shabbat and connect to their heritage, their faith and the Jewish people.” 

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