Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Nissan 5762 - March 20, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Terror Crisis in Israel Pushes Shuvu to Increase Assistance
by Eli Rubinovich

Twelve years ago, as thousands of new Russian Jewish immigrants were pouring into Israel, there was considerable excitement and enthusiasm in helping them discover their long lost connection to Yiddishkeit. Many organizations sprang into action, initiating new programs. Today individuals and organizations perhaps feel that the immigrants have settled in, they've acclimated to their new lives in Israel.

However, there is a "quiet" organization that continues to not only maintain its services for the Russian Jewish community, but actually increases its services regularly.

Shuvu has established over 40 schools throughout Israel catering to the specific needs of olim from Russia. Combining outstanding secular education (a tool to attract the parents to their schools) with warmth and caring, it creates an environment that is not only violence and drug-free, but also one where the students respect the teachers and staff, as well as each other. This type of setting is fertile ground for introducing the children from the former Soviet Union to Torah and mitzvos.

Shuvu also runs the following programs: summer camps, the Chesed Program, the Kesher Tefillin Program, the after-school program, and adult education. Shuvu is affecting over 12,000 children this year alone.

An extremely important project run by Shuvu is providing individual assistance to Russian Jewish families for Pesach. New immigrants from the former Soviet Union find themselves at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. A very high percentage are unemployed, and those who aren't are earning minimum wage which does not allow for any extra spending. Too many households are single-parent families. Obtaining the usual Passover needs is an unmanageable burden on such a household.

The new immigrants themselves are quite overwhelmed by adapting to a new culture. To help them, for the past eight years Shuvu has been providing Kimcha DePischa packages containing wine, matzos, grape juice, and other essentials for celebrating Pesach properly.

Shuvu is also publishing a booklet with illustrated diagrams to help explain the various traditions and halachos of Pesach observance to help the parents be acquainted with the Halachos that their children are learning in school. These booklets will be included in the Kimcha DePischa packages that each family will receive.

Shuvu/Return also organizes Community Seders throughout Israel and Shuvu's schools conduct registration for these Seders, which are eagerly attended.

Shuvu/Return also organizes and runs two 3-day seminars during the Passover holiday. The seminars are conducted in guesthouses in Jerusalem, with all necessities taken care of by Shuvu. Not only does this allow the participants to celebrate Passover in a very meaningful way, but it also gives them the opportunity to spend three days with other Jews who immigrated to Israel dozens of years before them -- they build relationships and it helps them overcome the difficulties of the first few years in their new country.

Whereas in previous years Shuvu provided Kimcha DePischa packages to approximately 6700 families, this year the demand has shot up to over 8100, a 20 percent increase. The interest in Shuvu's Community Seders and Pesach seminars has also grown by 25 percent, from 2340 last year to 2975 expected this Pesach.

Israel's overall population has been panicky and anxious due to the current intifada and this is especially true of the Russian Jewish immigrants. As such, many are turning to traditional spiritual sources to help them cope with the latest tragedies of the Jewish people in Israel.

Recently, one Shuvu parent expressed this idea in the following way: "We have tried to be outstanding copycats of the gentiles. We tried Communism, we've tried to imitate the Western culture in our own homeland here in Israel, and we even tried to outdo the Americans in modern culture. But none of this has helped to bring peace and prosperity for the Jewish People of Israel. The more we try these foreign concepts here in our homeland, the worse the situation gets for the Jews. Maybe there is a different set of rules for Jews in Israel. What about trying the Torah and its principles that are the Jew's real connection to the Land of Israel?"

It is no wonder that Shuvu is being inundated with additional requests for Pesach assistance and spiritual guidance.

At a three-day seminar which Shuvu ran this past Succos, Igor and Tanya Perelman were introduced to their rich Jewish heritage for the first time. Their son attends second grade at Shuvu's elementary school in Tel Aviv, and he convinced them to join the seminar.

During the seminar Mrs. Perelman made contact with Reb Ovadia Meyshayev, Shuvu's Outreach and Chug Bayit Coordinator. Before the end of the seminar, Mrs. Perelman made a commitment to try Shuvu's Chug Bayit in Bat Yam, organized and led by Reb Ovadia.

Although Tanya lives quite a distance from Bat Yam, she made the long trip the following week to attend the lecture. She became a regular, attending the lecture week after week.

After two months of attending the Chug Bayit, Tanya finally managed to bring her husband along. Imagine Reb Ovadia's delight as Mr. Perelman became a regular attendee as well! Not too long ago, Tanya announced that they decided that to keep kosher.

Shuvu's own financial situation is far from an easy one. Due to their constant growth and additional programs, as well as the general world economic slowdown, donations are harder and harder to come by.

"As of right now, I don't see how we could possibly cover the expense of the increase of our Pesach Programs", says Rabbi Chaim Mikael Gutterman, Shuvu's Director in Israel. "We are hoping that Acheinu Beis Yisroel will come to our aid so that we can, in turn, come to the aid of our Russian Jewish brothers and sisters."

Those interested in hosting a Russian Jewish family over Pesach, or for donations or further information, please contact Shuvu at Rechov Yirmiyahu 78, Jerusalem 02-538-9925.


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