1. D'var Torah based on impressions from the trip
2. We went on a Synagogue trip from May 17 to 31 to cities including Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev, and Odessa. This trip was originally suggested by some community members and was put together by Sophia from the Jewish Travel Agency. It was a very well-organized and co-ordinated trip that enabled us to see things (particularly in Kiev and Odessa) that we might not otherwise have seen. A notable highlight was our visits with members of the local Jewish communities who opened their doors (and hearts) to us in describing their work and the challenges they faced in addressing issues in their decimated (by the Germans) and assimilated (by the Soviets) Jewish communities. Notwithstanding, we came away with a sense of hope and optimism that their work will reap many benefits! Most meals, five-star hotel accommodation, transportation, tour guides, Jewish historical sites, museums - all looked after and never in doubt - we packed a tremendous amount into each and every day thanks to the amazing work and organization of Sophia. Our local guide in Russia, Evgenia, was a real standout - fantastic guide! We would not otherwise have likely ever gone to Kiev and Odessa had this opportunity not presented itself. Babi Yar memorial was particularly moving. Highly recommended!!!
3. As one of the trip organizers, I describe Sophia Kulich as professional, hard-working, knows Russia, Ukraine and Jewish tour issues inside out and you can be confident that with her you will get the best trip possible. She is available, helpful and dependable. Long ago, I wondered how this was going to work when we actually got there, pick-ups, meetings, buses, guides, interpreters, entry tickets-it seemed altogether overwhelming. You were very cool and just kept saying that it was your job. You were right. I am speaking very generally here and I know others, have different impressions and different opinions but to me it worked like clock work. You should be very proud. Everyone had a wonderful time, everyone learned a lot, we got what we asked from you. It was flexible enough so that we could add our rabbi and our particular likes and needs and work with the trip. Personally, I was happy with the guides. I loved that Irene spoke Russian with me so that biased me. Eugenia was amazing in the Jewish museum and Museum of Tolerance, she assessed the situation, saved a disaster and turned it into a remarkable lecture on the Jews of the pale, her knowledge was astounding and she is a great speaker. Natasha was particularly good in the sculpture garden of the Odessa Literary museum and at the statue of the 12th chair-that alone was worth going to Odessa and I had been there and seen both already!
I am so indebted to you for your cool professionalism over almost two years because for me the trip was a pleasure and the project was personally satisfying.
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