Reprinted with thanks to 

Why is Tisha B’Av, you may wonder, important to a secular Russian Jew? I grew up with little knowledge of major Jewish holidays, let alone an obscure Jewish fast day observe mostly by the Orthodox today. It is a reasonable question. It has a reasonable answer.

The timing of Tisha B’Av is particularly sensitive in my family. You see, two days after Tisha B’Av was when my father witnessed the murder of his father, the rabbi of Tomashpol, a shtetl in Ukraine. My grandfather was not the only one in his family to be murdered that day. He was brutally killed along with the rest of his family and about 400 other residents of the town. In one day, a shtetl in the Ukraine was erased from our Jewish map, like so many other Jewish villages that disappeared in the last century in Europe and Russia.

My dad at the time of his father’s murder was only six-years old and already without the pillar of his family. What’s worse is that he witnessed the whole massacre from a mulberry tree at the edge of town by the ravine where the bodies fell to their death. You may be able to erase a town, but you can never erase such an image from memory. The image of a small boy in a mulberry tree always stayed with me, as if such details validate the entire memory. Perhaps the image of a small boy hidden in a tree represents the innocence of childhood that shattered that day in our family’s history.

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Dr. Misha Galperin, a Wexner Heritage alum (NY/Kekst) is President of ZANDAFI Philanthropic Consulting Services. Until July of 2015, Misha was CEO and President of Jewish Agency International Development, responsible for the Jewish Agency’s External Affairs, Financial Resource Development as well as many of its strategic initiatives world-wide. Misha is the co-author of The Case for Jewish Peoplehood: Can We Be One? with Dr. Erica Brown and the author of “Reimagening Leadership in Jewish Organizations”. Misha was born in Odessa, Ukraine and immigrated to the United States as a teenager. He has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from NYU, is a graduate of the Wexner Heritage Program which led him to become a Jewish Communal professional and he has worked as an interpreter, a teacher, a psychotherapist and an executive of social service, community service and educational institutions. Misha lives with his family in Brooklyn, New York. He can be reached at