She had been a Refusenik and came to the United States in 1989. Although she had a graduate degree in metallurgical engineering from a Leningrad Institute, she decided to dedicate her life to the Jewish community: she first received a Council of Jewish Federations FEREP grant that enabled her to attend Brandeis" Hornstein Program in Jewish Communal Service becoming the first Jew from the FSU to do so. But, this was not enough to sing Dayenu.
I first learned Olga Yorish's story when, as a UJA leader, I visited the Memphis Jewish Federation for the United Jewish Appeal in 1993 where she directed Planning and Allocations. I told her then that I was going to watch her career, knowing that it would be spectacular. A few years later, while in Philadelphia to meet with leaders there, Olga and I crossed paths again -- her commitment to the Jewish community and People had not cooled, her dedication had only grown. After a stint as an FRD Director for a small Federation, in 2007 Olga was hired as the chief professional officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Bedford.
I kept my promise -- I have watched Olga grow in her roles in Jewish communal leadership. And, now, she has agreed to become the new Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando where she will be surely challenged as never before. My congratulations not only to Olga but to the leaders of The Orlando Federation who made this hiring decision. Olga has the drive, the experience and the personal history that predict great success if the same leadership that hired her commits to the community as never before.
Many of us have watched the JFGO for years, viewing it as a place of unrealized and incredible potential. In the past years, it has struggled with dormant campaigns and huge debts. But, there is clearly a revitalized leadership in Orlando and coupled with Olga's hiring, there is real hope. But this community represents an incredible challenge; if only we had a national federation organization capable of assisting.
We all should not just cheer Olga and Orlando on; we should help in every way that we can. Had we a national organization worthy of its role...