Providing Building Blocks for Jewish Education

They keep asking their mothers, “Where is bread and wine?” As they languish like battle-wounded In the squares of the town, As their life runs out In their mothers’ bosoms. Lamentations 2:12 (The Israel Bible™)

For those living in the Ukraine, life has not been easy. According to the International Monetary Fund, Ukraine is the poorest country in Europe. Sadly, a five-year-long war with Russia has only exacerbated matters. And for Jews living in the country, the rise of antisemitism has compelled many to look for an escape route. 

Just last month, 121 new immigrants from the Ukraine touched down in Israel and began their new life in the Holy Land.

“With antisemitism increasing around the world, it’s even more clear that the land of Israel is the safest and best place for Jews to live today.  As Israel’s oldest charity, Colel Chabad has been involved with assisting vulnerable Jews for over 200 years and continues to be one of Israel’s most important non-profits,” Rabbi Tuly Weisz, founder of Israel 365 said of Colel Chabad which dates back to 1788. “I encourage anyone who can to assist Colel Chabad in helping Jews from the FSU escape persecution and antisemitism and relocate to Israel so they can raise the next generation of Jews in Israel.”

For over ten years Colel Chabad has offered an impactful way for new Russian speaking immigrants to integrate into Israeli society. With its Dodke Strous Russian Leadership Training Institute for men and Fenya Krugman Jewish Women’s Leadership Institute, Colel Chabad provides all-inclusive training and education for prospective immigrants.

These institutes provide everything a student needs in order to begin their life in Israel. With locations in Migdal HaEmek and Jerusalem for the men and women respectively, students enter the halls knowing they don’t have to worry about food, clothing and instructional classes on Jewish life. 

And, best of all, it is all 100% free so that the students can focus on adjusting to life in Israel. 

There is much to learn, especially since many come to the institutes with no knowledge of Hebrew or Jewish life. 

“Stalin did a good job,” Rabbi Shmuel Lipsker of Colel Chabad, lamented. “He eradicated Jewish life in the Soviet Union that many need to learn about Judaism from scratch.”

Students enjoy a jam-packed schedule where they attend university or work during the day. But come late afternoon, their time is devoted to Jewish studies. From learning the weekly Torah portion to studying Yiddish to knowing how a Jewish home is supposed to look like, these men and women are provided the building blocks they need to create a loving and nurturing Jewish home. 

It is no wonder then that most of the students – some 80% – choose to stay in Israel and make aliyah after the one year program. Many end up getting married and creating that Jewish home that they’ve learned so much about over the year.

The women must be 18-25 years old and are required to adhere to an observant Jewish way of life while at the school. That means, for example, they must keep the Shabbat, which can be a challenge for those new to Jewish traditions and rules.

But for most women, they’re eager to adhere to these new rules and begin their life in Israel anew.

Additionally, learning in the institutes also enables the students to get a financial head start that they’d never receive otherwise.

“In Israel, an Israeli student with a scholarship can barely support himself – paying rent for an apartment and basic day-to-day needs is expensive. Now, imagine having to do all that when you barely know the language. These institutes are a game-changer for Russian speaking Jews from the FSU,” Danielle Gaulan, who runs the Women’s Leadership Institute said.

Although studies and finances are extremely important, Gaulan says the institute’s real added value is the individual attention given to each student. She cites the work of Chaya Rodenstein who functions as a resident assistant to the 50 women, but in actuality, fulfills a motherly role. 

“She takes care of the women lovingly,” Gaulan said, citing that Rodenstein will even help the young women prepare for their weddings. “She is the most important figure in the school. She would give anything to these girls.”

For many of these women hailing from the Ukraine and Russia, being so far away from home and knowing that every need is taken care of and that they matter is the best way for them to begin their new life in Israel.

Written in cooperation with Colel Chabad.

To donate to Colel Chabad please click here.