Issue #387

Issue #387 – 12 July 2010 / 1 Av 5770





After an almost six-year search, the World Union has purchased space in a building in Minsk for use by the Progressive movement. According to COO Shai Pinto, it will have a synagogue; a youth activity center; a community center for members of Sheket, the local congregation for the hearing-impaired; and facilities for Progressive Jewish clubs and cultural activities. It will also serve as the World Union’s Belarus headquarters and as a special events venue for the city’s three Progressive congregations.

“One can truly say that today was a historic day in the history of the Progressive Jewish community in Minsk and for our entire World Union family,” Pinto said just after the purchase deal was inked. “I wish to thank Sandy and Steve Breslauer for their unbelievable generosity, trust, patience and belief in making this day happen.”

The building is in a central area, next to government offices as well as a garden. “There is significance in the location,” Pinto said, “as it is situated on what’s known as ‘Jew's Street,’ where Minsk’s Jewish ghetto once was, and about 500 yards from the central memorial to the Ghetto. Building a new Jewish synagogue there speaks volumes for the resurgence of Progressive Judaism in the former Soviet Union.”

According to Alex Kagan, the World Union’s FSU director, the premises “exceed our needs and expectations in terms of the central location, the modern facilities, the historical Jewish significance and the symbolism. The first time I saw this place, I had a strong feeling that after so much searching, we had finally found what we were looking for.”

Rabbi Grisha Abramovich, the World Union’s spiritual leader for the Progressive Jews of Minsk and Belarus, was effusive in his gratitude. “After more than five years of searching, we will have a physical presence in the very heart of Minsk. About 900 Progressive Jews here express their thanks to the Breslauer family and to the World Union’s lay leaders and professionals. Thank you all, as a big family and as individuals, for making our dream a reality. May God grant you good health, hope and courage!”

An interior shot of the new facility in Minsk. Left to right: World Union COO Shai Pinto, Marina Krinchinkova, Director Erdini Bel, Minsk, Michael Kemerov, World Union Executive Director, Belarus, Valery Sheinin, World Union Executive Director, Russia, Rabbi Grisha Abramovich and Alex Kagan, World Union director for the FSU.


By Rabbi Joel Oseran, Vice President for International Development

The news above, announcing the purchase of our new synagogue center in Minsk, was written just days before the untimely death of Sandy Breslauer, beloved wife of World Union secretary and Management Committee member Stephen Breslauer. Sandy passed away on Friday morning, July 9, in Houston, Texas, having fought courageously for nearly a year to overcome a serious illness. She died peacefully, surrounded by her loving family.

Sandy and Steve Breslauer have been stalwart supporters and leaders of our World Union for Progressive Judaism for decades. In one of the first missions conducted by the World Union to the former Soviet Union, shortly after the fall of communism in the 1990s, Sandy and Steve visited our Progressive community in Minsk, Belarus. It was our congregation, Sheket, for the hearing impaired, which most touched Sandy and which served to inspire her and Steve to develop a long-term commitment to help secure a permanent home for our Progressive movement in Minsk.

The effort to find a suitable property for our synagogue center in Minsk was extremely challenging. It was filled with a number of setbacks and near-successes. But Sandy never gave up – her passion and dedication to stay focused on the end goal motivated all of us to keep our determination and optimism. And then, just a few months ago, while Sandy was waging her own battle, we found a property that met all our criteria and we moved quickly to finalize the negotiations for purchase. The first call made from Minsk after the signing of the purchase contract was to Sandy and Steve – the heart and soul of the project.

In a letter sent to members of our Executive Board informing them of Sandy's death, she was eulogized as follows:

Sandy was a shining light and our world is dimmed with her loss - her generosity of spirit, her adoration of all humanity, especially of children, and her love of life should be emulated by us all... There is no doubt that her memory will always be a blessing - she will live on in all the acts of goodness she performed, all the smiles and the laughter she brought forth and all the love she sowed. We are all so lucky to have been the beneficiaries of her life...

Our World Union family extends its profound grief to our dear friend and devoted leader Steve Breslauer at this most difficult time. Steve and Sandy were inseparable partners in life, “Popcorn” and “Peanuts” – names they used when performing as clowns in hospitals around the world – to those who have followed their remarkable gifts in bringing joy and happiness to the lives of those in need. And through their generosity of spirit, Sandy's legacy of giving will be forever remembered by our growing Progressive Jewish movement in Belarus and beyond.

A memorial service to celebrate Sandy's life will be held at noon on Thursday, July 15, at Congregation Beth Israel, 5600 N. Braeswood Blvd, Houston, Texas. Condolences can be sent to Steve Breslauer at

Yehi zichra baruch – may Sandy's memory be for a blessing.

Sandy Breslauer z”l

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