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2022 Outstanding Service Provider in the Field of Aging

Wednesday, March 15, 2023 9:59 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Luda Gikhman
Director, Russian Jewish Cultural Center
Jewish Family Service of the Cincinnati Area

Luda’s story begins in the former Soviet Union where she was an educator. She met, fell in love, married and had a family with a Jewish man. As a result, Luda experienced discrimination due to anti-Semitism and was unable to advance in her career.  In the late 80’s/early 90’s the Soviet Union allowed those identifying as Jewish to immigrate to the United States. Luda’s family arrived in the United States with no housing, no jobs and little if any English skills. Jewish Family Service of the Cincinnati Area stepped in and provided what Luda’s family needed to resettle and be successful here in the United States.

Luda then paid it forward by coming to work for Jewish Family Service and helped other families from the former Soviet Union resettle here. As an educator, she taught citizenship and English to these families and provide care management to navigate the public and private benefit systems here in the US. Luda also became a professor of Russian language at the University of Cincinnati.

In 2017, Luda created, designed and successfully launched the Russian Jewish Cultural Center. Its purpose was to provide a culturally responsive place to gather for older adults from the counties of the former Soviet Union including Russia and Ukraine. The center borrows from the concepts of senior centers and adult day care service centers but the focus is on American, Russian and Jewish culture.

When it opened, the center served 50 clients and today it serves over 200. Almost half are age 80 and over. Luda partners with the Mayerson Jewish Community Center on transportation and lunch.

During COVID Luda switched quickly and successfully to virtual programming much of which continues today. They are back two days a week at the center in person and field trips to the symphony, ballet, area parks and movies have resumed.

One client named Mila says, “The Russian Jewish Cultural Center is like a home, it gives me life”. 

In 2022, Luda stepped up to help those fleeing the war in Ukraine, the country of her origin, to be able to be in the Cincinnati area often with family or friends. Each person/family’s situation is unique and the multitude of public and private systems to navigate through to be here legally is overwhelming and complicated.

Luda has done so much to help older adults in the Cincinnati area. She loves her county and is thankful to be able to do so while celebrating the culture of her birth.  

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