A Day of «Russian» Torah in America
A Day of «Russian» Torah in America
On Sunday morning, Nov 22nd, surprised looks could be seen on the faces of the residents of the center of religious New York — the Brooklyn neighborhood of Flatbush: Around the luxurious Syrian synagogue, Jews were crowding… and they did not look Syrian.
Not only the Americans, but the «Russians» themselves rarely see such a large number of Russian-speaking religious Jews gathered together.
While the Jews of the Syrian congregation were leaving new synagogue, Shaare Rahamim, after the last minyan, the place was quickly filling up with «Russians» who arrived for the Day of Torah — to hear and talk to their favourite lecturers: Rav Ben Tzion Zilber, Rav Asher Kushnir and Rebbetzin Chava Kuperman.
For many of the participants this was not just another class, but the unique opportunity for a personal connection with the most popular authors of the website toldot.ru whom many had known only online until then.
For the Toldos Yeshurun Day of Torah that has already become a tradition, people came not only from different boroughs of New York, but from other States as well: Maryland, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan — and even from far-away Alberta (Canada).
Soon it turned out that the number of participants by far surpassed the number of registrations, and the large, spacious shul became very crowded (Toldos Yeshurun apologizes to those for whom there was no space and food).
Rav Asher Kushnir faced a difficult task: Among his listeners were many who had been Torah observant for a long time and well familiar with his audio classes, but then there were also many for whom these classes were a first contact with Judaism.
Unfortunately, like in other places, so too, in America do most members of one shul not know what is going on in the next. Here, however, Russian-speaking baalei teshuvah — from various congregations — came together, and many met their old friends from their «former life» who, like themselves, are now living a fully Jewish life. One of our old friends described this very aptly:
«We came especially to the Toldos Yeshurun Day of Torah from Saskatchewan, Canada. And for several years now, I have been keeping Shabbos, learning Torah every day, and trying to observe all the mitzvos, but unfortunately, my wife is still at the very beginning of her journey. My wife and I liked the classes very much, and we both are returning from the Day of Torah much stronger in Judaism than when we came. But, despite the interesting classes, what was crucial for my wife were not your amazing teachers, but the sheer numbers of religious “Russians” that she saw. Up until now, she thought I was the only one to go crazy like that.»
A special program under the direction of Rebbetzin Marianna Krelin was awaiting the children. For the smaller ones, a proper kindergarten was set up, and there were games for the older ones. Rav Moshe Eleizer Rabinowitz told the children the history of Jewish America: Many children were pleasantly surprised to hear that the famous Rabbis who built America — Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Aharon Kotler, Rav Kamenetzky and the Lubavitcher Rebbe were «Russians» and even spoke Russian. Rebbetzin Chava Copperman told her father"s story — the story of Rav Yitzchok Zilber (of course, the Rebbetzin had to speak English — our children hardly know any Russian!) But the highlight of the children"s program was Binyamin Lerner"s performance.
The day before the Day of Torah, a small seminar was held by Rav Asher Kushnir and Rabbi Kalev Krelin in Fair Lawn, a small town in New Jersey, where the organizers were in for a pleasant surprise: One of the couples who had participated in the seminar approached them with words of gratitude: We now live a religious life, and we thank you for that. It was only because our son learned in Yeshivas Toldos Yeshurun and sent us your books and tapes from there. Now he is married and living in Monsey, and we are moving to Fair Lawn , closer to the Jewish community.
Likewise, classes of Rav Ben Tzion Zilber were organized in the framework of Toldos Yeshurun"s work in North America in the Russian-speaking kollelim of Rav Shlomo Logovier, Rav Boruch Lecht, the Philadelphia city kollel of Rav Isaacson, as well as classes by Rav Asher Kushnir in Queens and several classes for women by Rebbetzin Chava Kuperman. Next month, Toldos Yeshurun will be organizing classes of Esther Offengenden in Chicago , Detroit , Passaic and New York .
We are very grateful to families Yosef and Rivka Pomerantsev, Shlomo Meir and Heina Sheinblyum, Rabbi Kalev and Marianna Krelin, Pinchas and Tanya Kleyman, Yaniv Meirov from CHAZAQ, Rabbi Usher Friedman from Nechomos Yisroel and David Beniachvili (mazal tov on the birth of a daughter!) for their active help in organizing and conducting the Day of Torah.
A special thank you to the brothers Eliyahu and Rafael Buriev for the impromptu bookstore. In the past few years, they have distributed over 50,000 (!) Audio CDs of Rav Kushnir free of charge in the framework of the Keter organization, and to Yisroel Ackerman, representative of the international Shadchan network, who improvised a shidduch session during the breaks.
We also thank Meir Sklyanov (Meir"s Heimishe Bakery) and Yisroel Ackerman — «Ein Kemach, ein Torah", Pinchas Krasnopolsky for organizing the Shabbaton and his brother Steve (Vernissage Studio 21, 917—279—2488) for the professional pictures.