Your tour leader and host throughout the entire May journey is Alexander Gendler, the publisher of Varda Books. Alex was born and grew up in Vinnitsa, Ukraine. As a dissident, he was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1974. When Gorbachev came to power, Alex was allowed to come back to see his mother, but then arrested again and deported by the order of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. Later, he was able to return and take part in the defense of the Moscow's White House during the attempted coup in August of 1991.


While a graduate student in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, Alex had been back many times to sponsor and lead archeological expeditions to the Jewish Caucasus and Crimea as well as individual trips to recover the bits of modern Jewish history in Ukraine. 

Oleksandr Nayman is our main guide in Kiev. He is the Chief Historian of the Shimon Dubnow's Ukrainian Academy of Jewish History & Culture as well as the Vice-Chairman of the Anti-Defamation League of Ukraine. He is also a lecturer at the Open University of Israel.


Oleksandr is the leading specialist on the history of Jews in Ukraine and an expert in the area of Jewish-Ukrainian relations. He is the author of more than a hundred articles and books that have been published. 


Margarita is a fully licensed guide in Kiev for more than five years. Margo's specialty is the guided walking tours in Kiev. In addition, she is a specialist in archival research and genealogy and can be of great use for those who are interested in their family history.



Faina Vinokur is one of our guides in Vinnitsa. She is a deputy director of the regional archive and is also the wife of the leader of the Jewish community of the city.  Isaak Novosel'tsev. Their children live in Chicago.

Author of important monographs on the history of the city, she is an authoritative source for information on one's heritage and the history of Jews in Podolia. 




Sergei (pictured having lunch with Joseph Stalin) has been a school principal, a lecturer at Kiev International University, a consultant-historian to the President of Ukraine regarding Crimea, and a screenplay writer for several historical documentaries. He is from Vinnitsa and will be one of our guides there as well as in Proskurov (Khmelnitskiy), Feltshin, and Medzhibizh.

AlaSergey is friendly and personable. His English is excellent. He is also a cautious driver, which you'll appreciate given Ukrainian roads. One of his talents is engaging people on the streets. With his assistance, you'll be able to discover important to you places that are not on any maps or guides.

Olga is our guide in Odessa. A native of the city, she has MBA from the University of California at San Diego. Intelligent and organized, Olga tells stories of Odessa that she loves. She is not just showing buildings, streets, and parks, but relating the stories behind them. Olga is gentle and genuinely friendly. 


Center for Jewish Life Studies

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