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Toldos Yeshurun Dinner, attended by many Russian Jews, inspires the Jewish American Community

Toldos Yeshurun’s First Annual Dinner, dedicated to the memory of its founder, Rav Yitzchok Zilber zt”l, took place at the Young Israel of Avenue K.

On Sunday evening, November 19th, in what will forever be etched in the memories of attendees in the jam-packed hall as a tremendous source of inspiration and chizuk, Toldos Yeshurun’s First Annual Dinner, dedicated to the memory of its founder, Rav Yitzchok Zilber zt”l, took place at the Young Israel of Avenue K.

Founded by the Russian-born Tzaddik, Rav Yitzchok Zilber zt”l in 2000, upon the direct guidance of Rav Eliyashiv and other Gedolei Hador, Toldos Yeshurun unites Russian-speaking rabbis and Kollel Avreichim to reach out on a one-one-basis to their secular Russian brethren. Experiencing phenomenal success in only six short years, Toldos Yeshurun now operates 67 programs in 54 places throughout Eretz Yisroel. The dinner’s financial goal was to raise funds to expand the women’s kiruv program.

Toldos Yeshurun had extended an open invitation to both American and Russian Jews to join them for an evening of tribute, as, in addition to seeking assistance from American Jewry to invest in spiritually strengthening their Russian brethren in Israel, Toldos Yeshurun is also seeking the financial support and recognition of the frum Russian Jews in America. Toldos Yeshurun is trying to inspire Russians to reach out to their brethren and develop a mentality of giving (what Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky called "Russians for Russians"). But Russians don't always have the means to give, and some do not have a mindset of giving. Toldos Yeshurun relies on American Jewry for financial support and looks at it as a good example for the Russians.

And so they came—and were seated side by side —those who were born and bred frum, and those who had to forge their own fiery paths to Yiddishkeit, acquiring Torah and Mitzvos through consummate hardship and mesiras nefesh. They came from various Torah communities in the area—Boro Park, Flatbush, Lakewood, Monsey, Boston, Baltimore and Passaic—indistinguishable from the rest of the crowd, with only their Russian accents giving them away. Leaders of Russian-speaking communities in America, such as Rav Avraham Binsky, Rav Aryeh Katzin, Rav Eliezer

Dimarsky from Chicago, Rav Pinchas Bobrovsky, Rabbi Itzchak Shimonov,

Rabbi Paysach Diskind from Baltimore, and many others were present at the dinner, as well as the Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivas Rav Chaim Berlin, Rav Aharon Shechter, who supports Toldos Yeshurun tremendously and has a big part in building Russian-speaking Bnei Torah. Everybody stood up out of respect for the Rosh Yeshivah.

One American guest observing the awe inspiring scene was overcome with emotion. “My mind subconsciously equated the Russian language with secularism, the result of growing up with secular, or possibly even non-Jewish, Russians in the neighborhood. Seeing Bnei Torah speaking Russian, observing holiness on the shining countenance of Rabbi Ben Zion Zilber as he enthusiastically greeted his Russian brethren, in Russian, was a supremely uplifting moment of transcendence.”

The evening was inspiring, emotional even, for many people. Some left with tears in their eyes.

Rabbi Moshe Rabinowitz of Lakewood, served as the evening’s Dinner chairman. “Rav Yitzchok Zilber was my uncle,” he began. “He wasn’t an organizer; he was a doer! He never delegated responsibility to others, but reached out to his Russian brethren in every way possible, by himself! We need to help Toldos Yeshurun continue his noble work, now that he’s gone!”

More touching moments ensued when the Russian avreich, Rabbi Yehuda Dorman, talmid of Rav Yitzchok Zilber zt”l, made a siyum Hashas. The concluding words of the siyum “Shesamta chelkainu bsorasecha..Anu amailim v’haim amailim” carried added poignancy, and was followed with rousing Mazel Tov cheers, singing and dancing to musical accompaniment.

“The reason Toldos Yeshurun garners so much success in transforming so many Russians into Bnei Torah, is because they feed their brethren the truth and beauty of the Torah lifestyle,” explains Rabbi Rozner, chairman of the Wolfson Foundation. “It’s not a sugar coated, watered down version. A Jewish soul is attracted to the truth.”

“Ner L’echad, ner L’maiah!” thundered Rabbi Paysach Krohn, the evening’s guest speaker, comparing Rav Yitzchok Zilber zt”l to a candle in the dark, illuminating the lives of thousands of his Russian brethren. Rabbi Krohn had learned of Rav Yitzchok Zilber seven years ago, while visiting his son in the Sanhedria Murchevet neighborhood of Jerusalem. Upon his son’s insistence, he had visited the Russian Tzaddik who lived nearby, discovering the awesome scope of Rav Yitzchok’s kiruv work to his Russian brethren.

For almost all Russian-speaking Bnei Torah all over the world, including those in America, Rav Yitzchok is a symbol of "Russian Torah". Practically all Russian Rabbis and leaders are either students of Rav Yitzchok or students of his students and

therefore, Rav Bentzion Zilber, his only son who continues his work, was greeted by a standing, applauding crowd.

Rabbi Krohn spoke of the credo that Rav Yitzchok lived with, the personal responsibility he shouldered to reach out to his brethren, to the Russian youth. He reminded all the guests of why they had come tonight: to fulfill their respective obligations to reach out to our lost Russian brethren, by supporting the cause of Toldos Yeshurun who does the work on our behalf. “Let’s make a financial commitment to help Russian Jewry in a practical way!” he prompted lovingly, pointing out that every Russian soul that we save is an opportunity to impact future generations.

He also offered heartwarming words of chizuk to the Russian Baalei Teshuva of how beloved and treasured they are by Hashem, by recounting this torah thought of Rav Shimon Shkopf. “B’cha chosmin” Hashem promised Avraham, hence the mention of only Avraham’s name in the closing of the Magen Avraham bracha in Shemona Esray. “To sign off the galus, to bring the redemption,” Hashem was intimating to Avraham, “I am seeking people like you, Avraham—Baalei Teshuva, who like you, had to forge their own path, not like Yitzchok and Yaakov, who had a father, a grandfather, to show them the way.”

With Chanukah approaching, Rabbi Krohn concluded with a brocha that the light of Torah and Yiddishkeit should continue with the Russians. And continue it does:

Everyone who made reservations for the dinner, received a raffle ticket for a trip to Israel.

At the end of the dinner, Rav Benzion Zilber took out the winner'sticket. We announced the number, but nobody came. Later, a young man from Monsey came and said that he had the ticket. After light and musical accompaniments, he said, it's not my ticket. It belongs to a boy who was here with me and when he left, he told me to keep the ticket and in case it wins, to give it to someone who needs it. The hall was getting very lively and there were arguments about to whom to give this ticket. It was suggested from the audience to give it as a donation to Toldos Yeshurun but the boy who brought it was absolutely against this, as he had been asked explicitly to give it to a person and not an

organization. Then everyone decided to give the ticket to Rabbi Yehuda Dorman, who made a siyum haShas at the dinner, and his wife. But still, it was decided to call the one who gave his ticket to make sure that he really wants to give it away wholeheartedly. It is interesting that practically everyone attending the dinner was Shomer Torah uMitzvos, but this boy of all people was just at the very beginning of his journey. The avreichim

who learn with him brought him to this dinner. When he heard on the phone that it was just his ticket that won, he was very moved and said that he sees this as a sign. After a short consideration, he asked to announce in the hall that he is very happy about Rabbi Dorman getting the ticket, and that he himself is taking upon himself to buy

tefillin and put them on every day.

Finally, Rav Asher Kushnir, the acclaimed Russian lecturer of Toldos Yeshurun who had lectured in Russian to hundreds of Russian Jews earlier that day in Brighton Beach, thanked the audience for their attendance and their generous support. “We need to acknowledge all of the Russian Jews who came tonight to offer their support. It’s a wonderful thing that we’re seeing, and the first time I am witness to Russians helping Russians. With the help of our Russian brethren here in America and the generous support of the American tzibur, we can bring back many more Russian Jews.”

The next, second Toldos Yeshurun dinner, will BE"H be dedicated to the publication of the translation of Rav Yitzchok's autobiography upon the initiative of Rabbi

Yitzchok Hutner.

On Dec 18th, 2006, the fourth night of Chanukah, the Toldos Yeshurun Siyum haShas will take place in Binyanei haUmah, Jerusalem, to which thousands of students and hundreds of avreichim of Toldos Yeshurun will come. The joint journal for the dinner and Siyum haShas will be released within the frameworks of this siyum. Those who want to place an ad in the journal or forward a tax-exempt donation to Toldos Yeshurun, are invited to do so.

By eMail: dinner@toldot.ru, on the website www.toldot.ru/dinner, by fax: 718-504-4218 or by mail:  Moshe Rabinowitz, 10 5th street, Lakewood NJ 08701.

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