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Toldos Yeshurun Kollel in Sanhedria

The Toldos Yeshurun kollel in Sanhedria

Sanhedriya Kollel

This largely successful kollel was the first of the now over 30 kollelim of Toldos Yeshurun operationg all over Eretz Yisroel. Let’s take a look back at how it all began:

 In 1972, when Rav Yitzchok Zilber first came to Israel, there was not a single Baal Teshuvah from Russia in Jerusalem. Slowly, single Baalei Teshuvah began coming, and in the beginning of mass aliyah, there were tens of “Russian” Bnei Torah and Torah teachers, many of whom subsequently became well-known figures of Russian Jewry.

 

Nevertheless, this period, before the beginning of mass aliyah, can be called “the period of singles”.

 

In the late 80ies, hundreds of young Russian-speaking Jews started their yeshiva education, and towards the year 2000, a unique situation materialized when there were several hundred “Russian” bnei Torah in Eretz Yisroel who had studied for 7-10 years in the best American, European and Israeli yeshivos. It goes without saying that many of them were either the students or students of the students of the leader of the Russian Jews’ teshuvah movement, Rav Yitzchok Zilber.

 

Many Russian-speaking organizations in Israel made invaluable contributions to educating “Russian” Jews and bringing them closer to the Torah. The first among them are the “Shvut Ami’ yeshivah under the direction of Rav Eliezer Kugel, the “Toras Chaim’ yeshivah in Moscow, the “Russian” departments of the yeshivos “Ohr Somayach” and “Machon Lev”, the “Russian” groups in “Ateres Yisroel” and “Haran”, “Shavei Golah”, the “Dvar Yerushalayim” yeshivah, the womens’ programs “Beit Ulpana” and “Neve Yerushalayim”. It is important to mention the activity of the centers of “Machanayim”, “Ohr Avner”, “Shamir”, “Shaarei Tzion”, “Aish haTorah”, the “Shuvu” schools. In America, there were “Beer Hagolah” of Rav Germain, the “Shaarei Emunah” congregation of Rav Binsky, the Sinai Academy of Rav Katzin, “Shoroshim” of Rabbi Neistadt, “Heritage” of Rav Dimarsky, “Tel Torah” of Rav Amsel… It is difficult to enumerate all the existing programs and projects, and even more difficult to enumerate all those who took active part in them.

 

As a result of their work, in the late 90ies it became possible to use hundreds and hundreds of young avrechim and lecturers for educational work.

 

This period, from the late 80ies until the late 90ies, can be called “the period of the hundreds”.

 

It was in this setting that the initiative of “Toldos Yeshurun” came to fruition.

 

The organization was founded by Avrohom Cohen under the spiritual leadership of Rav Yitzchok Zilber. Rav Ben Tzion Zilber headed the kollel, and Yehuda Leib Avrech took up the administrative and financial work.

 

It all began with the chavrusa kollel in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sanhedria Murchevet in the “Ezras Torah” shul, where the first 5 pairs of students started out. A few months later, there were already 50 weekly chavrusos in the kollel, i.e. study pairs of yeshiva students and “Russian” Jews.

 

The number of students in the kollel grew steadily, and we were bombarded with requests to open study programs in other places. A short time later, an evening program came into existence in Beitar Illit under the leadership of Rav Nochum Ofman. Here, Russian-speaking avreichim began learning at night with their peers who worked in the mornings.

 

Two more kollelim were set up in Neve Yaakov and Beit Shemesh under the leadership of Toldos Yeshurun activists Yisroel Mann and Yosef Shupak.

 

That is how the chin reaction started.

 

Today, there are Toldos Yeshurun kollelim in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Ashdod, Natanya, Ofakim, Netivot, Modiin and other places with a large population of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. There are five independent organizations that started out as part of Toldos Yeshurun.

 

Parallel to the programs for men, a network of classes for women was set up under the leadership of the daughter of Rav Yitzchok Zilber, Rebbetzin Chava Kuperman.

 

Thus, the evening learning program in Sanhedria became a “greenhouse” for the growth of leaders of the Russian-speaking community in Israel, as many of the directors of our regional programs had their “training years” in Sanhedria, where they were taught by Rav Yitzchok Zilber himself and now, after his passing, by Rav Ben Tzion Zilber.

 

This period can be called the period of formation – the formation of a united, Israel-wide learning network in Russian, which now boasts over 350 Russian-speaking Torah teachers and lecturers!

 

To draw conclusions from Toldos Yeshurun’s work, one can say that the three main principles on which we rely in our work have done much for the success of our activities.

 

The first principle is personal contact. Everything is built on the main principle of giving over the Torah, used by our ancestors from generation to generation – chavrusos, i.e. study partners.

 

The second principle is – all the directors of our programs are immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and they understand their students and feel their needs and wishes.

 

The third is – our directors are not hired workers. They themselves raise the funds and apportion the budget, receiving mainly organizational and methodical help from Toldos Yeshurun, as well as financial support in the beginning period, or a small monthly contribution, up to 50% of the budget – sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less.

 

Now we can speak about the appearance of the necessary conditions for the fourth period of the development of the “Russian” religious community. This is the ultimate formation of the Russian-speaking community of Israel. At present, there are not only new study programs, but also minyanim, gemachim, congregations. Several synagogues are being planned, there are new publications in the Russian language, kindergartens are opening up…

 

The chain reaction continues.

 

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