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Son of Zion in Neve Yaakov

What unites us is the common passion to learn Torah

Jerusalem was always a center of culture in Israel. This is also true today, and we can especially see it with the Russian-speaking population. Many neighborhoods in Jerusalem, such as Ramot, Har Nof, Ramat Shlomo and Neve Yaakov have a large concentration of religious Russian-speaking families.

There is a large population of Russian-speakers with an interest in Jewish tradition and Torah study residing in Neve Yaakov. On this fertile ground, Israel Mann began his work before the Kollel Toldos Yeshurun was founded. Two years ago he transferred his work over to Shalom Kaplan. Recently, the Kollel in Neve Yaakov grew in numbers and became strengthened. There are now about 15-20 students attending the Kollel on a daily basis. The learning includes a frontal class and of course chevruta (one-on-one learning with the teacher) study. The local Beit Yaakov School building is the home of the Kollel and here is also where the daily tefilot (prayer services) take place. There is a minyan (10 men quorum) on Shabbat and the Holidays (the Gabbai is Alexander Medvedsky – 054-599-4113). There are also separate classes for women: The Laws and Meaning of the Prayers. The teacher is Lea Levin. There is also a beginner’s Kashrut class with Rav Levi Raskin. The Kollel’s teachers also give classes to the children and help prepare the boys for Bar Mitzva.

The makeup of the Kollel students is very varied, each person with his unique life story. Not a few come with no knowledge of Torah and Jewish traditions whatsoever. But after a certain period of study, they begin to find that learning and avodat Hashem or religious observance, need to be the central elements of their lives. They then transfer to a Yeshiva in order to study on a full-time basis.

One of the Kollel students especially worthy of mention is Benzion Tschernichovsky. Fate itself drove him to seek out the Truth. Benzion, previously called Alexander, made Aliya from Tbilisi in 1990. He was very far from Torah and from leading a Jewish life. His first years in Israel were fairly ordinary. He tried to settle down and find his roots in his new homeland. In 1993, Alex was working as a guard on one of the most dangerous roads in Israel, the Tunnel Roads connecting Jerusalem with Gush Etzion. “That day began as usual,” says Alex. “My partner and I spent the day guarding building machinery, watching the cars drive by and engaging in idle conversation. There was nothing to warn us of the bad events about to unfold, and the situation on the roads at that time was relatively quiet. Up ahead were the soldiers at the machsom (roadblock checkpoint), and we really thought we had nothing to worry about. Suddenly, an Arab hiding in the back seat of a car with an Arab license plate, and who had, seconds earlier, gone undetected by the soldiers, got up and started shooting. I was very severely wounded and spent many years in rehabilitation.

This is also the reason I flew to Moscow in 1998. This event caused me to reexamine many things in my life. I became very interested in Torah and in Torah study. My journey began with classes and Shabbats spent in the Torat Chayim Yeshiva in Moscow. When I returned to Israel in 2003 I continued to search for a connection to the world of Torah on the Internet. That is how I found the Toldos Yeshurun site and that is how I discovered that there’s a Kollel right here in my neighborhood where one can learn in Russian. When I first came to the classes, I was immediately taken with the warm and friendly atmosphere of the classes. I began to study in earnest and by May of that year I had my Brit Mila (circumcision ceremony) and received a new name, Benzion, meaning “son of Zion”. Now I try to spend as much time studying as possible.

The students in the Kollel also stay in touch outside of the classroom. We pray together and get together to celebrate Shabbat and Holidays. What unites us is the common passion to learn Torah and keep the Mitzvot (the commandments). I wish that more people would come closer to our tradition, that our community will expand and that all of our Jewish brethren will return to their roots,” is how Benzion ends his story.

The phone number for the Kollel in Neve Yaakov is 054-540-0803.

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