Yana Tolmacheva, 33, boxer and advocate for Jews from Eastern Europe


Yana Tolmacheva, the senior director at Moishe House for RSJ (Russian-speaking Jewish) programming across 11 countries, was selected as one of the New York Jewish Week’s 36 to Watch (formerly 36 Under 36). This distinction honors leaders, entrepreneurs and changemakers who are making a difference in New York’s Jewish community. Tolmacheva also boxes and is currently ranked No. 6 in the country and No. 1 in New York in her weight division. Recently she fought in a boxing match at Madison Square Garden. Tolmacheva lives in Coney Island, Brooklyn.

For the full list of this year’s “36ers,” click here.

New York Jewish Week: In a few sentences, tell us about the work you do and any outstanding accomplishments.

Tolmacheva: I was born in Moscow and raised in Brooklyn and currently live in Coney Island. Brooklyn is home and I often say that I am a stereotypical New Yorker in most senses. Growing up secular, culturally Jewish, and in the diverse communities of Brooklyn, I never quite felt that I fully fit anywhere. That is why I am so passionate about the work I do, especially with the RSJ community, to foster a platform for young adults with a unique and distinct identity to connect to themselves and be part of something larger. I am part of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee at Moishe House and am passionate about diversity initiatives for all our network, especially in our international work. Outside of Moishe House and boxing, I love to travel, read and dance.

How does Moishe House serve Russian-speaking Jews?

For the past seven years at Moishe House, I have grown and strengthened RSJ programming across the world including building a global team, expanding to new locations, securing funding and leading immersive gatherings. I manage a team of four full-time staff including three based in the Former Soviet Union. One accomplishment was supporting my team and our Moishe House network in Russia, Ukraine and the surrounding region this year with the onset and continuation of the war. I opened new RSJ Moishe House locations including Chicago, Boston and Toronto which continue to see a succession of leadership. I also lead our global training conferences, where we bring together over 50 RSJ residents across 11 countries for a weekend gathering truly building a global RSJ community.

Who is your New York Jewish hero?

I am inspired by every Jewish immigrant who came to New York and built a life for themselves and created opportunities for my generation. I think about that every time I visit my grandmother on the Lower East Side.

What’s a fun/surprising fact about you?

I am an elite level competitive boxer. I lived in Argentina, traveled to several countries in Latin America, can hold a very decent conversation in Spanish.

What’s your favorite place in New York to take an out-of-town guest?

Sit by the water in Williamsburg then cross the Williamsburg Bridge to the Lower East Side.

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