Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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26 Tishrei 5760 - October 6, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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HaRav Mattisyohu Salomon to Lead Historic Mission of Vaad Lehatzolas Nidchei Yisroel to Russia

By M. Musman

Final preparations are currently underway for an event of major significance in the annals of the revival of Jewish life in the countries of the former Soviet Union. The Vaad Lehatzolas Nidchei Yisroel which, over the past two decades, has pioneered every stage of the miraculous renewal of Yiddishkeit in those lands, has organized a mission that will be visiting some of the centers of its activity. As well as surveying the impressive results of the work of recent years, the Vaad representatives will be marking new stages in the communities' growth with the opening of a number of new institutions to serve the basic religious needs of the growing numbers of Jews returning to their spiritual roots.

HaRav Salomon, mashgiach of Lakewood Yeshiva, will be heading a group of prominent community leaders, activists and laymen from the United States, Europe and Eretz Yisroel. As well as participating in the special events that have been coordinated for this visit, the mission's members will be meeting the Vaad's resident shelichim in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Russia, to discuss each community's particular needs and the challenges that its members face. The mashgiach is scheduled to deliver words of chizuk at each event.

The tour begins be'ezras Hashem on Monday the first of Marcheshvan 5760 (October 11). The mission's first stop will be Tbilisi, Georgia, where the members will survey the range of educational institutions that have been operating there over the past six years under the dynamic leadership of Rabbi Ariel Levine. A special communal assembly is planned, as well as the opening of a new elementary school.

The next day, the mission will continue to its next destination, Azerbaijan. It will first be visiting the ancient community of Kuba that has been served by a number of Vaad institutions for the past five years, and then continue to Gandza, where a newly-discovered Jewish community has recently begun to search for its own identity. After meeting members of the community, the new beis haknesses -- the community's first -- will be dedicated.

The third day will bring the members to Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, where the already impressive range of communal facilities will be enhanced by the inauguration of a new mikveh.

The final stage of the tour is to be St. Petersburg, Russia where, on Thursday the fourth of Marcheshvan, the festive opening of Yeshivas Pri Yitzchok is to be held. The yeshiva is named after HaRav Yitzchok Blaser zt'l, one of the closest talmidim of HaRav Yisroel Salanter zt'l, who served as rov of the city's then-large Jewish community until his departure for Yerushalayim, around one hundred and twenty years ago. Pri Yitzchok was the name given to one of the works which HaRav Blaser wrote during his tenure as the city's rov.

In recent years, St. Petersburg has hosted a number of very successful Vaad seminars, which have catered largely to the highly intelligent local Jewish population of this, Russia's second city, an intellectual and cultural center. With a relatively high initial enrollment of approximately seventy young men, the new yeshiva is staffed by native Russian bnei Torah, themselves products of Vaad institutions in Russia and Yeshivas Shvut Ami in Yerushalayim. It will be an important addition to the handful of institutions of higher learning already serving the Jewish communities of these lands.

As well as the immense chizuk which local Jews derive from such visits from their brethren -- not to mention the deep impression left upon the visitors themselves -- it is hoped that among the long term results of the trip will be a heightened awareness among the Jews of other lands of the pressing need to continue bolstering these nascent communities, who are still taking their first steps back to the path of their forefathers. Although several years have now passed since the initial burst of excitement over the reestablishment of contact with these Jews, the need for support of all kinds remains paramount, for after so many long years of enforced isolation, the road they must travel to spiritual self-sufficiency is still long and difficult.

In a letter publicized a year ago, the geonim HaRav Eliashiv and HaRav Steinman speak of the full obligation that is incumbent upon each and every Jew to work towards saving the Jews of these lands who, through no fault of their own were absorbed by the gentiles and lost all Torah and yiras Shomayim. Although the progress that has been made to date in drawing them closer to Torah and mitzvos is nothing short of incredible, we must not allow our efforts on their behalf to slack when their need is still so great.

HaRav Salomon and the other members of the leadership mission will be seeing with their own eyes the steps that have been taken and the promise that yet remains to be fulfilled. This important and historic trip will be'ezras Hashem pave the way for even greater involvement in the spiritual rebirth of the Jewish communities of Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and the other countries of the former Soviet Union.

For information on how to be a part of this event and for dedication opportunities, please call 718-252-5974 or 888-252- 5974.

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