Miriam Moody is working on her pronunciation of the consonant-laden word "Dnepropetrovsk" — the name of Ukraine's third-largest city.
Moody, who graduated in May from the University of Rochester and grew up in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia, has reason to bone up on her Russian. Next week, the 22-year-old is set to leave for a year in the city that lies on the Dnieper River and has a population of roughly 60,000 Jews.
Dnepropetrovsk has been on the radar for some; it's been a sister city of the Boston Jewish community for 18 years.
Moody was one of 10 volunteers nationwide — and the only one from the Philadelphia area — to be selected as an American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Jewish Service Corps Fellow. According to the JDC's Web site, the program is a chance "for active, enthusiastic, knowledgeable Jews to serve and take part in the life of a Jewish community overseas."
Moody, who was recently relaxing with her parents at the Jersey shore, readily acknowledged that she doesn't know what to expect, and that much is "up in the air."
"I'm trying not to overthink it. I'm not really sure what to expect," said Moody, who added that she'll be teaching English and also be working on a project called "Do Good, Ukraine," which connects individuals and nonprofits with volunteer opportunities in eastern Ukraine.
Moody, who grew up attending services at the Germantown Jewish Centre, studied anthropology and religion at Rochester. She'd previously spent a semester in Israel at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, where she volunteered for an NGO that works with Bedouin women.
She'd also studied Russian in college, and had considered applying to graduate school for anthropology. She decided to take some time off to work, but when a good job appeared hard to find in America, she set her sights on volunteering in the former Soviet Union — a part of the world she's never visited.
"Going abroad," she declared, "is a better choice than working at home on some kind of entry-level position."