Until we can hop on a plane again, join UJA’s Ruby Lions for a virtual experience that will educate and delight. Guided by UJA’s overseas partner, the Jewish Agency, we will dive into the unique history and contemporary culture of the Jews in Rome, Berlin, and Johannesburg.
No need to pack your bags; leave your passport in your drawer. Just bring your passion for travel and your curiosity about the world.
This series welcomes donors who give a gift of $10,000 or more, individually or as a family, to UJA's 2021 Annual Campaign.
Naomi grew up in Germany. As a trained therapist, she is involved in community development in Tel Aviv and Berlin. She survived the attack on the synagogue in Halle, Germany, on September 9, 2019, and is a joint plaintiff in the trial against the assassin. Together with other victims of the attack, she called on the media not to reveal the name of the attacker so as not to offer him a platform.
Naomi Henkel-Gümbel is currently a rabbinical student at Zacharias Frankel College.
Anastassia (“Nastia”) Pletoukhina was born in Moscow and moved to northern Germany with her parents. She found out she had Jewish heritage when she was 12 years old and began to explore her roots. She later moved to Berlin not only to get her master’s degree but also to have access to more Jewish activities and social networks that would facilitate her formal conversion to Judaism.
Nastia is an alumna of The Jewish Agency’s Nevatim leadership-training program in Germany. Through Nevatim, she founded “Studentim,” a center for German-Jewish university students. Today, Studentim is Berlin’s largest provider of Jewish education to college students.
Nastia has held a range of professional roles in the Jewish community, including manager of the Berlin Community Youth Center and educational manager for Maccabia Europe in Berlin. Today she directs programming for The Jewish Agency’s center in Berlin.
Roman Polonsky joined The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) after a long and storied career in Russian media and Israeli politics. In 2009 he served as a senior advisor to then-agency chairman Natan Sharansky and is currently the Director to the FSU, Central and Eastern Europe. Based in Berlin, Roman oversees JAFI’s informal Jewish education activities, young leadership programs, Israel engagement, aliyah preparation, and other services in the former Soviet Union (FSU) and Germany.
Prior to his engagement with JAFI, Roman worked closely with Natan Sharansky to establish and promote Yisrael BaAliyah, the political party devoted to representing the interests of Israel’s Russian immigrants. Later, Roman served as senior media advisor and spokesman for Sharansky throughout Sharansky’s tenures as minister of Housing and Construction, minister of Industry and Trade and as a chief of staff for Interior Minister and Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs. He translated Sharansky’s two books, The Case for Democracy and Defending Identity, into Russian.
Roman is a graduate of Kishinev State Academy in Moldova and The State Academy of St. Petersburg. He holds a master’s degree in education and stage direction and is an accomplished pianist. After immigrating to Israel in 1990, Roman headed the news operations at Vremya, the Israeli Russian-language weekly, worked as a political commentator for the Russian daily Vesti, and later served as a political analyst for Israel’s leading radio station, Kol Yisrael — the Voice of Israel. He also served as a host of a political show on Channel 9 (Israeli Russian language TV).
Roman writes widely on issues of Israeli politics, Russian Jewry, public diplomacy, and strategy.
UJA Ruby Lion Chairs
Jill Bodian, Debbi Buslik, Eva Galpern, Juli Karson
Chair, Laurie Girsky