JRCC Program Director

Tell us a little about your background and your studies. NELLY TSIRULNIKOVA.jpg
I come from Rostov-on-Don, and my wife is from Dnepropetrovsk. We met in Austria, where we both studied at the Vienna International Institute of Applied Sciences. After graduation, I received a Master's Degree in International Marketing and Management. Upon returning to Russia I pursued a second degree in political science.

What did you do after graduation?
I worked at the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia. On behalf of Rabbi Berl Lazar, the Chief Rabbi of Russia, I helped communities in various cities across the country open youth clubs and establish processes for engaging the Jews in the community. Nine years ago in Rostov I organized the first Russian Jewish youth club, called “RoshTov,” which is a play on words that is consonant with the name of the city and also means “Good Head” in Hebrew. In addition, I organized large outreach seminars for young people. This initiative led me to visit several cities, including Ufa, Novosibirsk, Khabarovsk, Tomsk, Krasnodar, Bryansk and others. Usually the seminar was held over the weekend from Thursday to Sunday. Youth from different cities in the area would join together, get to know each other, and immerse themselves in a Jewish atmosphere of study and personal growth, featuring leading Jewish lecturers from the US and Israel. They would also participate in outdoor adventure activities like skiing, snowboarding, jeeping and rock climbing. We created a balance of entertainment and educational programs in order to keep the young participants engaged. It was challenging and rewarding planning these weekend retreats well in advance for with a team of about ten people. My other responsibility was to develop connections with major sponsors of Jewish communities from different cities. To bring them together, I organized short trips, mainly to Israel but also to other places including Georgia and South Africa.

When did you arrive in Toronto and what brought you here?
My wife and I and our two children came to Canada from Rostov-on-Don seven months ago at the invitation of the JRCC, to take on the position of Program Director. As in my earlier stint with FJC in Russia, I also began to work on planning and organizing large events. My first project was Chanukah Wonderland, an annual family carnival which drew more than 1,100 participants this past year – more than it has in recent years. We also organized a soccer league and played with the guys every Monday. (I’m really looking forward to when we can play soccer again.) We also worked on several other community programs. Today I would like to talk about a unique project we are currently working on, something that has never been done in Canada before. In addition to my day-to-day responsibilities, I am developing a completely new initiative within the JRCC called When fully operational, the project will include a wide variety of social programs – including helping seniors during COVID-19, tax clinics, legal consultation and more. Some of the projects are already in place, while others are in development. Two new projects have been recently piloted and are already successfully operating. The first is the “Newborn Baby Care Packages” project. Each Jewish Russianspeaking family that has a new child born receives a gift basket from JRCC with a generous selection of clothing, baby products and Judaica. The only thing the parents (or grandparents) need to do is call the JRCC and let know that the Almighty has blessed them with a new child and we will send them a gift package. The second project, which is less fun but no less important, is the funeral package. According to Jewish custom, it is very important to conduct all the rites associated with burial and mourning days correctly and in accordance with Jewish law – this is something of utmost importance for the soul of the departed. For this reason, we prepared a bereavement basket, including a guide for the mourners, a large memorial candle that burns for the seven days of the “shiva,” the first seven days after the funeral, a bottle of wine, a glass, candles, and some food for the mourners so that they devote more time to the spiritual practice of mourning and not be distracted with cooking. In addition, we give each family a voucher for a complimentary portrait of their deceased loved one. We just need a photograph, and we will order a high portrait professionally printed on high-quality canvas, which we will give as a gift to the family. These projects were launched about a month ago, but, unfortunately, information about the deceased comes to us more regularly than about newborns. I urge everyone to help make a difference. If you know someone who has a son, daughter, grandson or granddaughter, please let us know. Our goal is to accompany and serve every Jew throughout the lifecycle – from the moment of birth, the Brit Mila, the upshernish (inaugural hair cutting for a three year old boy), Bar or Bat Mitzvah, the Chuppa (Jewish wedding) and so on until 120 years. And for each such significant event, we want to prepare useful and memorable gifts from JRCC.

What are your plans for the future?
I look forward to when our synagogues can again be filled with Jewish families praying, learning and celebrating Jewish life together.