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The "Russians" are conquering America: Toldos Yeshurun First Annual Dinner on Nov 19th

The "Russians" are conquering America: Toldos Yeshurun First Annual Dinner on Nov 19th


Toldos Yeshurun —the Israeli based organization that unites almost all Russian-speaking rabbis and Torah teachers to reach out to their secular Russian brethren—is attacking Jewish America.


The six year old Russian kiruv organization, founded by HaRav Yitzchok Zilber zt”l upon the direct guidance of Rav Eliyashiv and other Gedolei Hador was founded on the precept of recruiting Russian speaking Bnei Torah to partner one-on-one chavrusa style  with their not-yet religious brethren to teach them Torah.  The common cultural background and language serves as powerful bonding material, and the idea quickly took hold. One night kollel begot another, in city after city in Israel.  Headquartered in Jerusalem, Toldos Yeshurun now has over 58 learning sites and other kiruv programs throughout the country, in addition to their women’s program and shidduchim services.


 Their phenomenal growth not withstanding, there is still much uncharted territory, successes hindered only by a paucity of funding.


"With our budget of 1.5 million dollars, we cannot create classes and places of learning in every city where many Russian immigrants live,” says Avraham Cohen, director of Toldos Yeshurun.  "This is a paradox: we have people who want to learn Torah yet have no access to it. There are many cities in which there already are single people or groups who are asking for Torah classes in Russian. But there are no Russian Bnei Torah there, and to send an avreich by car—to the suburbs of Haifa for instance—is very expensive.  Non-Russian speaking organizations almost don't take care of the "Russians", and our current budget simply precludes us from opening new learning sites.”


It wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that the majority of today’s 1.5 million Russian immigrants in Israel, one out of every 5 Israelis, are Judaism-challenged, facing a slew of obstacles to their drawing close to Torah. Virtually all Russian Jews are atheists or are completely ignorant of yiddishkeit. Many don’t speak Hebrew well.  Their problems are exacerbated by the fact that there are very many mixed marriages. And to compound the tragedy, the Russian immigrant is typically a prime target for Christian missionaries. Practically every oleh chadash receives financial assistance as well as presents from missionary organizations. In “Russian” towns and cities, people receive invitations to "hobby clubs" in churches and the like every week. 


A letter signed by many Gedolim including Rav Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv shlit”a , Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a , Rav Ahron Leib Shteinman shlit”a, Rav Ahron Moshe Schechter shlit”a, Rav Shmuel Auerbach shlit”a,  Rav Pinchas Scheinberg shlit”a and Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky shlit”a reads,  “As a result of the mass Russian aliyah, there are many Jews in Israel who don’t know anything about Yiddishkeit, and there are a large number of missionary organizations (with a lot of money) who have succeeded in converting many Russian Jews to Christianity.


“Baruch Hashem, we have had the zechus to establish Toldos Yeshurun, and many Russian Jews are learning the Dvar Hashem and are coming closer to Yiddishkeit through learning with the best of the Russian speaking avreichim.

“It is a great mitzvah to give substantial help to the Toldos Yeshurun organization so it can continue to accept more Jews—who are far from their heritage—and teach them Torah.”    


Toldos Yeshurun founder Rav Yitzchok Zilber, zt”l was a Russian born Tzaddik and a Siberian gulag survivor, who emigrated to Eretz Yisroel with his family in 1973.  From the moment he stepped foot on Israeli soil, he was ardently committed to his fellow Russian brethren in Israel, wanting nothing more than to help them materially and spiritually.  And indeed, he was much beloved by the thousands of Russian Jews, whose lives he impacted. His mesiras nefesh in furthering yiddishkeit among his people in Eretz Yisroel earned him the title of “Father of the Russian Teshuva Movement in Israel.” 


Rav Yitzchok penned these lines to American Jewry: “With G-d's help, a tremendous work has been done by you in the United States directed to bringing the Jews from the former Soviet Union back to their roots. This work is bringing fruit: new families continue to appear who follow the path of Torah and Mitzvos. 


During recent years, here, in Eretz Yisroel, we’ve also had a lot of success in this area. A real "Russian Revolution" is currently under way in many areas of religious community life; there are new learning programs and kollelim for Russian Jews appearing. Evening, day, and full-time programs are now available, and various Torah classes opened in cities throughout the country.  There are "Russian" minyanim, gemachim, etc. as well. .

We now turn to you with an appeal to combine our unique experience in this work and join our forces in bringing the Russian Jews closer to Torah and Mitzvos.”

.Rav Bentzion Zilber, today’s spiritual leader of Toldos Yeshurun, says: "We received support from many American Rabbonim, above all from Rav Aharon Moshe Schechter and Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky who were very happy that finally there is an organization of Russian Bnei Torah who is taking care of education for Russian Jews. As Rav Shmuel said, "Russians for Russians."  

“This principle is what we want to apply to fundraising: In addition to support from American Jewry to invest in spiritually strengthening their Russian brethren in Israel, we are also seeking support from Russian Jews in America, some of whom are already helping us and supporting some of our programs."

"Our main problem with fundraising," explains Yehuda Leib Avrech, Assistant Director of Toldos Yeshurun, “is that Russian Jews, even religious Russian Jews, were not raised with the idea to donate to nonprofit organizations or to give ma’aser.   "This is why we make it our goal to raise money from Russian Jews and educate them to help Jewish educational programs. In this respect, America is a positive role model for us. I feel that here—in America—everybody wants to help, even non-Jews.”


For many years, Toldos Yeshurun has been raising funds in America. The annual parlor meeting in Lakewood is very successful, demonstrating the big respect for Toldos Yeshurun that people have in Lakewood.


Says Rav Moshe Leizer Rabinowitz, "Last year, I had the honor to be at the annual meeting of the teachers and students of Toldos Yeshurun. On that day there was a hachnassas Sefer Torah in the memory of Rav Yitzchok Zilber zt"l in the yeshivah Toldos Yeshurun. I cannot forget the hundreds of young Jews' eyes from which emanated the joy of Torah that they discovered for themselves. And of course, I see it as my duty to make an effort to help Toldos Yeshurun succeed in building their fundraising in America."


The first annual dinner Toldos Yeshurun Dinner will be held on November 19th, 2006 in memory of its founder, Harav Yitzchok Zilber zt”l, at the Young Israel of Avenue K. Rabbi Paysach Krohn, who called Rav Yitzchok Zilber, zt”l the miracle of the pure oil on Chanukah, comparing him to the little bit of pure oil that continued to burn and brought Yiddishkeit back to his people, will be the featured guest speaker.  Many Gedolim—Harav Shmuel Birnbaum shlit”a, Harav Ahron Schechter shlit”a, Harav Shmuel Kamenetzky shlit”a, Harav David Shustal shlit”a, and Harav Yisroel Belsky shlit”a—will iy”h be in attendance. For more information on Toldos Yeshurun’s dinner, please contact their website at www.toldosyeshurun.org.

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