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Meet Jewish Gateways Participants the Ellis and Parizhsky family

Julia was raised in a Conservative Jewish family in Queens, New York, celebrating all the holidays and going to Hebrew school three afternoons a week. She had a bat mitzvah and and then stopped practicing Judaism until she went on the Birthright Israel program after college. The trip motivated her to create her own meaningful connections to Judaism. She lived in Israel for a year and ever since she has found ways to bring Judaism into her life, such as celebrating Shabbat and hosting big Passover seders.

Ilya grew up in St. Petersburg in the former Soviet Union in a family of atheists. They emigrated to Chicago when he was 9, and this was when he found out that he was Jewish. Ilya ignored Jewishness until his young adult years, when he came across some very spirited Shabbat celebrations with music and singing. They moved his heart and made him want to learn more. When he met Julia it felt very natural to jump into more Jewish practice.


Ilya was attracted to Judaism by the "cultural stuff" and because it helped him build community, but he was alienated by talk of God. He eventually became more


Julia Ellis and Ilya Parizhsky with their daughter Aviva

comfortable with that aspect of Judaism, in large part because of Lox and Talks, the Jewish Gateways program for families with young children that he and his family participate in. Now Shabbat is a very important part of their two-year-old daughter Aviva's life. Ilya likes to see her embracing Jewish traditions. "For her, it’s just normal," he says.


Julia and Ilya are both psychotherapists. Julia is an expressive arts therapist, while Ilya works with individuals, couples, and groups. They live in Oakland in an intentional community with several other families. Ilya speaks Russian to Aviva, and Julia is learning the language. Julia and Ilya are also performing artists who love to dance and sing. Aviva loves to sing and dance as well. She also likes to cook with mama and to read books. 

Julia and Ilya first connected to Jewish Gateways through High Holiday services, and then were inspired by seeing the other kinds of events Jewish Gateways offers. Ilya in particular was impressed by the organization's interfaith work. They later saw Lox and Talks in 510 families and decided to sign up.


Lox and Talks gives them the opportunity to engage in conversation with Jews of various backgrounds and people in Jewish families who are not Jewish themselves. They appreciate having deep, meaningful conversations about things that are relevant today through the lens of things that have been important for generations. The experience is profound, wonderful, enriching, and enlivening.

They want to stay connected with the Lox and Talks families they know, and they are excited about Growing Together, Jewish Gateways' learning program for families with children preschool age and up. They want to continue to grow relationships and connect with folks involved in High Holidays and other programs. Finally, they want to provide a Jewish home for Aviva with lots of other kids and relationships that started when she was very little.


Aviva, hearing the conversation: "I want to go to Lox and Talks right now!"

Ilya: "It’s next weekend."

Aviva: "Today? I want to go today!"

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