RAJMN: Russian American Jews in Minnesota

RAJMN is the only Jewish-Russian program for young families in Minnesota, working to connect them to the larger Jewish community in Twin Cities and provide a deeper understanding of Judaism and Russian-Jewish roots and culture. We are a volunteer-led initiative, and our programs and events, held throughout the year, celebrate Jewish and Russian culture and serve as learning opportunities. We also serve as a bridge to other Jewish organizations, connecting Russian-American Jews to synagogues, Jewish schools, programs in Israel, Jewish summer camps and other programs as needed.

Our Mission

  • Deepen the connection of the Russian Jewish community in Minnesota to the larger Jewish community in our state.
  • Foster understanding and a general curiosity about Judaism and Russian Jewish roots and culture among young Russian-speaking Jews.
  • Strengthen connections between young families in Minnesota’s Russian-Speaking Jewish(RSJ) community.
  • Teach RSJ teens and young families leadership skills that can be used to develop a stronger voice in the greater Jewish community.
  • Strengthen the Jewish identity of Russian-Jewish teens and young families in Minnesota.
  • RAJMN is committed to support and launch projects and new initiatives for RSJ community and helping secure additional resources for their initiatives.

What We Do

Honor and Celebrate

RAJMN connects Russian American Jews in Minnesota to celebrate and honor our shared history and culture! Since its start, RAJMN has hosted over 300 programs, including celebrations for all Jewish holidays. RAJMN is proud to partner with other local organizations to plan the annual Twin Cities Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration and gather the RSJ community at the event.

Other events throughout the year include family Jewish education programs, social and cultural events, and concerts and performances

On Campus

We partner with Hillel, Chabad House, and SSI at the University of Minnesota to connect RSJ students to Jewish Life on campus.

Teen Fellowships

RAJMN offers yearly Teen Fellowship for RSJ High School students.

Conference Opportunities

We connect RSJ in the Twin Cities to national and international Jewish conferences.

If you are a Jewish, Russian young adult or a young family (born in the former Soviet Union or the United States), or know someone who is, e-mail Ilana Volodarsky or call 651-255-4742 for more information about this program.

RAJMN History

Ilana Volodarsky

Ilana Volodarsky arrived in St. Paul from the former Soviet Union in 1989. She holds a dual degree from the University of Minnesota in Business Management and Sales Marketing. During her college years, Ilana worked for the Jewish Community Relations Council/ADL of Minnesota. Ilana’s professional experience includes Event Planning for the Public Affairs Division at Land O’Lakes Corporation and Project Management for Weisman Corporation. Ilana is the Founder and Executive Director of the Russian American Jews of Minnesota (RAJMN) organization, which initiated in 2003. RAJMN is the only Jewish-Russian program for young families, young adults, and teens in Minnesota, working to connect them to the larger Jewish community and providing a deeper understanding of Russian-Jewish roots and culture. RAJMN programs and events held throughout the year to celebrate Jewish and Russian culture, and also serves as a bridge to other Jewish organizations, connecting Russian-American Jews to synagogues, Jewish schools, programs in Israel, Jewish summer camps and other programs as needed. RAJMN works in partnership with all local Jewish Agencies in creating programs to integrate RSJ in Jewish life and provides international educational opportunities and scholarship funding for RAJMN teen and adult program participants. Over the past 16 years, RAJMN has organized more than 350 events. Ilana is fully responsible for financing and program development of RAJMN. In 2016, Ilana created the RAJMN Teen Fellowship to serve as a year-long initiative with the main goal to connect RSJ generations, pass on history, traditions and culture from generation to generation. Teen participants have monthly guest speakers covering various Jewish topics such as Israel, Holocaust, Jewish History, art, music, and have the opportunity to attend various Jewish conferences. Teens are working on a documentary film with Russian-Jewish Holocaust survivors and WWII veterans, participating in fundraisers and organizing Jewish events for RSJ community in Minnesota. Ilana mentors various communities in the US and is a consultant for new projects/programs for the RSJ population in addition to providing educational sessions and seminars on Russian Jewish Culture. Ilana is a graduate of “Centropa Summer Academy” in Berlin and also served on the Host Committee for JDC Global Symposium for the Midwest Region. Ilana was a part of the organizing committee for Limmud FSU East and West Coast Conferences.

Russian-American Project Founder and Executive Director, arrived in St. Paul with her parents and younger brother from the former Soviet Union in 1989. She’s been leading  RAJMN since 2003.

In 2003, Ilana reached out for funding to the Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul to work with young Russian Jewish adults who immigrated to Minnesota from the former Soviet Union when they were children.

As a result, RAJMN formed as a one-year pilot program. Due to the enthusiastic response and high participation rate, the program continued to grow, helping immigrants forge connections to each other and their new community while also providing ways for them to explore and celebrate their religion and Russian heritage.

In 2010, through the commitment of an anonymous donor and St. Paul Jewish Federation funding, RAJMN moved its offices from the St. Paul Jewish Federation to the St. Paul JCC.

In 2012, RAJMN was awarded a grant for a teen initiative program from Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG), a foundation that develops and enhances Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews worldwide.

In 2013, GPG extended this grant, allowing RAJMN to add additional services and programs for young families.

As of 2018, RAJMN expanded to include Minneapolis Jewish Federation and functioning out of two offices in St. Paul and Minneapolis and is supported by The Jewish Education Project, with generous funding from the Genesis Philanthropy Group.


RAJMN-YALA Mini-Grants

Thanks to the vision, guidance, and support from Genesis Philanthropy Group, Minneapolis and Saint Paul Federations, there is now a way to get funds and resources into the hands of the individuals in the Twin Cities Russian Speaking Jewish communities. RAJMN-YALA Mini-Grants are being made available for young professionals and college students.

RAJMN Teen Fellowship

This school-year-long program for high school students starts in September and runs for 10 months. Participants will explore and expand their understanding of who they are, who they want to be, and how they want to make a mark on the world. Monthly guest speakers will cover various Jewish topics (Israel, Holocaust, Antisemitism, Jewish History, art, music, etc.).

Participants will be challenged to define their strengths, challenges, and personal leadership goals. RAJMN will provide the tools, feedback, and mentoring they need to experiment, collaborate and learn from their experiences.

Teens will have leadership opportunities in fundraising, events planning, marketing, recruitment and volunteering in the RSJ community. Fellowship participants also have the option of attending Jewish conferences in the US and worldwide. RAJMN will provide stipends for teens to attend the conferences (families will make their own travel arrangements).

The 2019 application is now closed.

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