From Russia with love

LBC alumnus Rabbi Leonid Bimbat leads the community Le-Dor va-Dor at the Moscow Centre for Progressive Judaism. When he visits London he always brings a gift for the library, offering us a fascinating insight into his community. In November 2023 he visited with his colleague cantor Dmitry Karpenko on a trip to celebrate the induction of fellow LBC alumna Rabbi Tanya Sakhnovich at Edgware and Hendon Reform Synagogue and presented us with some beautiful books. 

The first is a Hebrew Russian edition of the Book of Psalms, part of long term effort to create a new Russian translation of the complete Hebrew Bible, a labour of love by Russian Jewish translators, editors and publishers. The second is a limited edition Song of Songs. One of only a thousand copies printed, it has dreamy romantic illustrations and a lavishly decorated cover. The extraordinary cover opens in two directions, like doors to a grand mansion revealing the Hebrew on one side and the Russian translation on the other. It is a very special way to enter the extraordinary landscape of the text. 

The final gifts from Leonid are two desk calendars produced for his community. Like Jewish calendars the world over, they include Shabbat times and festival dates but these also feature illustrations by Rabbi Alexander Lyskovy. On one calendar, each month’s drawing has a festival or biblical scene with a Hebrew quote in beautiful calligraphy. On the other calendar, the illustrations feature a comic bearded and kippah-wearing character accompanied by a punchline reflecting a very Russian sense of humour.  

It is very meaningful to add these works to the library at Leo Baeck College where for many years we have been training rabbis to serve communities in the FSU and to be able to share them with Russian readers in the UK. The works show the creativity of the community and their deep engagement with Jewish texts and religious life. They are a wonderful example of a community creating their own dynamic Jewish culture. 

Cassy Sachar, LBC Librarian