In early May, Marina Grabovsky, an active leader within the Indianapolis Jewish community, joined a delegation of 111 Ethiopians as they embarked on an important journey to Israel, facilitated by the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI).
Grabovsky was part of a group of 40 volunteers, all of whom held influential roles in various capacities, including CEOs, journalists, community leaders, and social media influencers.
Grabovsky has been involved in Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis’ Israel and Overseas Committee and is active within Women's Philanthropy, demonstrating her commitment to the Indianapolis Jewish Community. She
was also part of the inaugural 36 Under 36 Cohort. She volunteers with Hasten Hebrew Academy of Indianapolis (HHAI) and is the co-chair of the Jewish Family Services program called Birthday Club. On the national Federation level, she has been a part of the Jewish Federations of North America's (JFNA) National Young Leadership Cabinet for several years, where she learned important tools for community building and participated in service trips.
Outside of the Federation world, Grabovsky currently serves on the board of advisors for the Jewish Agency's North American branch, the JAFI North American Council. In addition to her community involvement, Grabovsky is a devoted mother whose three children proudly attend HHAI, reflecting her dedication to preserving Jewish heritage and values through Jewish education. Grabovsky, who has participated in numerous organized trips and missions through JFNA and other Jewish organizations, explains that her interest in the Ethiopia mission with JAFI was largely driven by a desire to learn more about Ethiopian Jewry.
“During so many of the missions I have been lucky enough to attend - I have learned so much about the Jewish people around the world,” she said. “What drew me specifically to this was I myself was rescued from a nation. It is important to me to do all I can to help Jewish people all over the world. I was so honored to do this in Ethiopia.”
Furthermore, her awareness of the disparities faced by Ethiopian Jews in Israel compared to other groups of immigrants motivated her to assist Ethiopian Olim.
During the four-day mission, two days were spent in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. Grabovsky and the other volunteers met with several Ethiopian-Israeli JAFI employees who shared their own families' migration stories. Grabovsky experienced an Ethiopian Jewish prayer service at a small synagogue in Addis Ababa and visited a Jewish cemetery. On the third day, Grabovsky and the cohort of volunteers accompanied the 111 Olim, consisting of numerous families and individuals, on a charter flight to Israel. The most meaningful and memorable moment of the trip, what she described as her “aha moment,” occurred upon their arrival in Israel. Witnessing people disembark from the plane, filled with joy and excitement, left an indelible impression on Grabovsky. She recalls many of the adults in the group kissing the ground, as many of them had waited for decades to make Aliyah. This celebratory moment of arrival allowed Grabovsky to witness firsthand “the meaning of Israel for them.”
This experience struck a chord with Grabovsky, as she herself is an immigrant who arrived in the United States with
her family at the age of six following the collapse of the Soviet Union. “Being able to see the relief and joy in these adults’ eyes made me have even more of an understanding of what my parents felt landing in U.S.,” Grabovsky said. “Then looking over at these bewildered children and knowing what a bright future was ahead of them.” As an official partner of the Jewish Agency, the Federation takes pride in supporting JAFI's mission and work. Through the Federations' annual campaign, thousands of dollars are allocated to JAFI each year to support humanitarian efforts like this mission for Ethiopian Olim to Israel.
"Seeing firsthand that your dollars are really going here,” Grabovsky said. “It's very unique to witness the work we do. It's a life-changing thing. You form strong bonds with the people you travel with, and you witness firsthand the impactful work being done. It reignites the passion within you to do more, to give back more."