|Born and raised in Cherkassy, Ukraine, Alex did not grow up with a strong sense of Jewish identity, although he was aware that he came from a Jewish family. “My parents never told me about the traditions,” he says. Rather, it was his grandparents who informed him that he was Jewish.|
He also found out about the Jewish Agency through his grandparents, who now live in Haifa. “They helped my grandparents get to Israel,” Alex explains. He began attending events at the Jewish youth center in his hometown, where he learned about customs and holidays. “Without the youth center, it would be tough for me to keep in touch with my peers, keep up with all the events in Israel, all the traditions and celebrations of Jewish holidays.”
“I have come to love this life, these traditions,” Alex says. “To feel this, you have to start taking part in all the activities and meetings, and when you get to talk to people, you start understanding all those feelings that y... You feel like you are brothers and sisters.”
Thanks to support from Federation, Alex has been able to pursue his interest in learning about Judaism, and eventually to get to Israel and experience it for himself. “I went on a Birthright trip, which helped me realize the most that I belong there,” he says. “In Israel, you can approach a stranger, ask them something, and they would help you. It's not a big deal. You feel that connection.”
Having just graduated from university, Alex will soon travel to Israel again in order to spend five months learning Hebrew. “I feel like it's the country for me, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to go there and to help myself and help the country.”
Although his parents don't have the same strong feelings about being Jewish as their son does, they support Alex's trips to Israel. He is not sure if he wants to make aliyah - he says that it depends on how good his Hebrew gets. But he is eager to visit his grandparents in Israel.
“I feel that I belong,” Alex says. “Before I first came here, I knew I was Jewish, but the things I've learned and people I've met at the youth center really helped me realize it.”