By Felix Grudsky
Michael Khvilovsky takes off his headphones, smiles, waves good-bye to the hosts and quietly leaves the studio. Khvilovsky, an active member of Russian Hillel in Chicago, has just finished a short radio segment inviting college students and young adults to several upcoming Hillel programs. The 10-minute show is called "Sabbaba," a Hebrew expression that can be roughly translated as "cool" or "awesome."
The room that houses the studio is quite compact, about 10 by 12 feet, with a large rectangular table in the middle, two computers, microphones on each side of the table—two for the hosts and two for the guests—and a shelf with CDs. This Northbrook-based AM 1240 studio seems just like any other Chicago radio station. However, for 10 minutes every Monday night, the topic of conversation is Israel and Russian Jewish life in Chicago.
The airtime is donated to Russian Hillel/Hillels Around Chicago: Multi-Campus Center by Igor Golubchik, the owner of the "Vashe Radio" ("Your Radio") show, and—along with Natalya Vladimirsky—the co-host of this two-hour daily Russian show. Young adults like Khvilovsky who are passionate about Israel and promoting meaningful Jewish experiences to Russian-speaking students take turns being guests on the "Sabbaba" segment every Monday night at 6:15 p.m.
"Radio is a wonderful medium to reach Jewish students and young professionals and to let them know about Hillel programs and Hillel itself," Khvilovsky said. "I would like to build a strong Russian Jewish community in Chicago, and this is my small contribution."
Last Monday, Khvilovsky brought a friend, Zalman Kogan, with him to the studio. Kogan, 24, is a recent graduate of University of Illinois who decided to spend 13 months volunteering in the Israeli army after college. Among other questions, Golubchik asked Zalman if at any point in his army service, he was concerned or scared for his safety.
"There were times when the army service was very, very difficult and physically demanding," Kogan replied. "But I was never scared."
"I do this because I love Israel and because Russian community in Chicago often is not aware about all the achievements the country has made in its short existence," said Mark Furman, 24, a regular guest on the show. "I really love to talk about anything somehow connected to Israel – from music to sports, from Israeli educational system to Israeli history, from Israeli daily life to its holiday celebrations."
Furman also always brings an Israeli song to share with the listeners. Wonderful creations by Shlomo Artzi, Sarit Hadad, the Fools of Prophecy and the Idan Rachel Project have already hit the Chicago airways from the small studio.
"Sabbaba" has been in existence since early September and the topics have varied tremendously, according to Misha Zilbermint, program associate for Hillels Around Chicago: Multi-Campus Center.
Felix Grudsky is a graduate student at University of Illinois at Chicago and a JCRC/Hillel Russian Israel intern for Hillels Around Chicago: Multi-Campus Center.