Meet Olga Cherches

She arrived in this country from Minsk, 11 years ago, hoping to escape the rampant anti-Semitism of her native land.

“I was frightened for my life on several occasions, and I knew that when I eventually had children I wanted them to be able to grow up as proud Jews,” she says.

She arrived to marry Dimitry, whom she had known since she was six. A year after she was married, her oldest son was born. Several years later, her parents arrived from Minsk.

Embraced by the Jewish community, she quickly made friends, discovered Jewish programs, joined the JCC. Her son became a star on the JCC swim team. The Associated helped her parents apply for health benefits to establishing a credit rating.

After living here for a number of years, a friend called her, looking for young Jewish professionals to become more involved in The Associated. “I became involved with Shalom Baltimore which welcomes the newest members to the Baltimore Jewish community,” she recalls.

Through Shalom Baltimore, Olga makes sure that those who recently moved to Baltimore have an easy transition. From the welcoming gift basket, filled with coupons and information on schools and programs, to the one-on-one relationships she forms, Olga provides insight into everything from special needs services to a good dry cleaner.

“I can provide knowledge about this community to someone who is new that only someone living here awhile would know. It helps them alleviate stress and makes it easier to blend it.”

She’s helped a mother find a job; she’s shared her suggestions for the best place a newly arrived Russian-speaking family should take English courses. She offers advice in a host of areas, from supermarket suggestions to schools. She has even become friends with those she’s met.

“People tell you how grateful they are,” she says. “It’s pure joy. I like to help people and by doing this mitzvah you really see results.”

“I make people feel special,” she says, adding, “This is a resource I wish was available when I had arrived.”


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