The WhatsApp group for the Russian-speaking Jewish (RSJ) Wexner cohort of New York 16 has been a lively forum for political debate and discussion since its inception last summer during the New Member Institute (NMI) in Snowmass, CO.  Frankly, it’s been hard to discern whether we terribly like each other and want to talk all the time or whether the unprecedented political events of the last eight months have gotten many of us engaged in a way that we hadn’t been before.  It’s also important to note that as Jews from the former Soviet Union, we each have our own baggage, memories, ideologies and a particular distaste for politics.  But even that has not deterred us.

With such discussions as our backdrop, the abstention at the UN by the outgoing Obama administration and the uncertainty around policy towards Israel by President Trump and his team have put some members of our cohort on a quest for an outlet to defend Israel politically — something that not many RSJs are currently doing.  Israel has always hit home for us.  In fact, more than 80% of RSJs have close relatives living in Israel; and, whereas only 20% of American Jews have visited Israel, that number is greater than 80% among RSJs.  

Our learning has encouraged us to take these personal connections a step further.  Many of us have recognized that we are willing to put other political differences aside to ensure that Israel can defend herself and thrive in the midst of tremendous sociopolitical challenges.  A homework reading of Rabbi Yitz Greenberg’s essay from 1987, “The Third Era of Jewish History: Power and Politics,” put it best: “As manifested in Soviet Jewry demonstrations, Jews already learned that there is group safety and dignity in the public promotion of their interests.”  For many RSJs, however, even those in our cohort who want to act, the million-dollar question has always been, how?  Aside from being outspoken on social media, most RSJs don’t have the tools to navigate the never ending alphabet soup of Jewish organizational acronyms and aren’t meaningfully involved. 

As merely one pathway of political action for the RSJ community, two RSJ Wexner cohort members teamed up to organize an information session on the work of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in southern Brooklyn.  The event, hosted in the home of another WHP member, was well attended by others in our cohort as well as their friends from the community — almost all of whom were hearing about the possibility of political work on behalf of Israel for the first time.  As a result of this event, several families joined AIPAC and are continuing to spread the word to their friends.  In addition, many families inquired about what AIPAC can offer their high school teens.  While the AIPAC high school engagement model traditionally operates through Jewish day schools, the organizers of the information session quickly recognized that most RSJ teens don’t attend those.  As such, members of the current RSJ Wexner cohort are working on an initiative to provide an alternative platform for political advocacy for high school teens in southern Brooklyn. 

It goes without saying that AIPAC is but one avenue to advocate for Israel politically on a spectrum of many others, especially in a place like NYC.  What we want to point to more generally is what is possible when we inspire each other, collaborate and leverage our collective resources.  #ThxWex for bringing us together and for allowing us to engage in conversations and work that is challenging, thoughtful and necessary. 

Stella Binkevich, WHP Member (New York RSJ 16), was born in Donetsk, Ukraine.  She immigrated to NYC when she was seven and attended Stuyvesant High School and the University of Michigan.  Her first job out of school was at Goldman Sachs, where she analyzed counterparty credit risk.  She left Goldman Sachs for a tech-start up called Liazon, where she serves as a Senior Manager.  Outside of work, Stella has an extensive history of involvement in AIPAC.  She is also a part of the RSJ Natan giving circle and a few boards/committees at UJA.  Stella can be reached at
Boris Khodorkovsky, WHP Member (New York RSJ 16), is a board certified Emergency Medicine physician and has served as Associate Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Staten Island University Hospital since 2012.  In this role, he is responsible for quality of patient care, performance improvement, safety and daily operations of the department, as well as resident education.  Born in Rostock, East Germany, he grew up in St. Petersburg, Russia prior to immigrating to New York in 1991.  Boris is very active in his community’s Jewish life.  His passion lies with ensuring that the next generation of the Russian-speaking Jews have a strong Jewish foundation.  Boris can be reached at
Lenny Gusel, WHP Member (New York RSJ 16), was born in Moscow and emigrated with his family to Washington Heights in 1981 at the age of nine.  After successfully acculturating and almost fully assimilating into American life and culture, at the age of 30 Lenny realized a deep-seated personal need to understand, develop and integrate his Jewish and Russian identities into his life.  In 2001, while living in San Francisco, Lenny co-founded RJeneration (previously known as 79ers) and in 2006 brought it to his hometown NYC.  Lenny is a passionate advocate for the development of the RSJ community and the individuals that comprise it.  He serves on the board of Mishpucha and is a proud member of AIPAC.  He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and three children and can be reached at
Lenny Vayner, WHP Member (New York RSJ 16), is an experienced cybersecurity professional.  He has held leadership roles at leading financial service firms, where he was responsible for protection of clients’ confidential data and $1.2 trillion in daily transactions.  He has taught seminars and has spoken at industry conferences (i.e., ISACA, RSA, Burton Group and Technology Managers Forum).  Lenny holds an MBA in Strategic Management from Pace University, BS in Computer Science from NYU-Polytechnic University, several industry certifications and four patents.  He can be reached at