Feature Stories

Metsuda Young Leadership Initiative Expands to Caucasus

Ask Nadezhda Kulikova what she learned from attending JDC’s Metsuda program in Pyatigorsk, Russia, and she’ll tell you the four-day youth leadership development seminar “broke” her.

Ask Nadezhda Kulikova what she learned from attending JDC’s Metsuda program in Pyatigorsk, Russia, and she’ll tell you the four-day youth leadership development seminar “broke” her.

Don’t worry, though. Kulikova said Metsuda – which operated in southern Russia and the Caucasus for the first time this spring — put her back together even stronger.

“The project has strengthened my faith in myself,” she said. “It has altered my life values, taught me to respect everyone, to appreciate each moment of life.”

The JDC-developed Metsuda young leadership program has historically operated in Ukraine and other parts of the former Soviet Union. This April it came to Pyatigorsk, a landlocked city about the size of Savannah in southwestern Russia, near its border with Georgia and about halfway between the Black and Caspian Seas.

The program seeks to equip young Jews with skills that can further community building and development.

Kulikova left the program inspired to involve herself further in Jewish life in her hometown of Kislovodsk.

“I want to work better for our Jewish community, to develop it and to bring more new people into community life,” she said.

The four-day seminar brought together 28 young people from throughout the region — men and women hailing from cities like Rostov, Krasnodar, Volgograd, and Astrakhan.

The Pyatigorsk session included a host of leadership workshops, with skills developed through role-play, team-building exercises, Jewish history and culture lectures, and other tools.

Metsuda alumni from the region also participated in the project as observers and madrichim, sharing their experiences and wisdom with the Pyatigorsk group.

The city was selected to host the event because it’s close to the hometowns of many Metsuda participants, affording the young leaders the opportunity to cementing the connections they’ve made by continuing to meet regularly.

The group will meet again in July to provide a status report on projects and ideas developed during the Pyatigorsk session.

The summer seminar will focus on project management and presentation skills, with an in-depth look at the mechanics of philanthropy, fundraising, community development, and Jewish values and tradition.

Diana Shalumova, a Pyatigorsk native who participated in April’s program, called Metsuda “very necessary.”

“Today I am already back to the regular pace of life, but warm recollections about these four days of the seminar will stay in my heart for a long time yet,” she said. “The project somehow changed me.”

Shulamova said she’s grateful to JDC for running programs like Metsuda.

And, she stressed, this is just the beginning of her strengthened commitment to communal Jewish life.

“I've found myself thinking about many things, redefining something in my life,” she said. “Now I am full of enthusiasm and I am sure it will stay with me, because I am ready to contribute my knowledge and new ideas to the life of our Jewish community.”

Tags for this story: Youth / Young Adults

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