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Can One Person Really Make a Difference? Yes! Just Read On...
Passing on our heritage
Passing on our rich heritage, Rabbi Reich’s involvement began when he was approached to place children of Russian families in local yeshivos specifically founded to educate new arrivals. In the process he learned that much of the yeshivas’ positive work was being counteracted by the parents, due to their lack of Jewish education and identity.
Closing the Gap
In the course of the last several years he has built a Kehillah, or community, of well over 400 Russian families in Brooklyn, NY. “I realized that , even in those cases where Russians are sending their kids to Yeshivos, the parents were not being positively impacted. There was a clear generation gap. It became clear to me that the way to bring these Jews back to Judaism is to work with the entire family.” Rabbi Reich sensed in these parents the feeling that they could never reclaim their Jewish heritage. He decided that his own family would be extended to encompass his new Russian friends.
We’re Responsible for Each Other
Children rewarded for excellence
He takes seriously the dictum that all Jews are responsible for each other, and once he meets a family he does not let go, becoming involved in their personal lives and problems. Recently he was on his was to Manhattan to speak to a fertility specialist on behalf of one of “his couples” which had been childless for sixteen years. How can he take the time for something like that? Can’t someone else step in? “This is my job” he responds “How can I face them when their family is falling apart?”
An older member of the shul, tells the story of his tefillin ”I came into shul with a set of tefillin I had brought from Lvov, all taken apart and destroyed by the customs agents. They must have been about 150 or 200 years old. Rabbi Reich told me, “If you received such a gift, Hashem must want you to wear tefillin.” Rabbi Reich proceeded to acquire a pair of tefillin for me. From then on, I put on tefillin every day. My wife lost her mother last year. Rabbi Reich came over to our house with a minyan to help her tear her clothing, according to tradition. The Rabbi told her that her mother’s memory is honored because she will sit shiva after her. He also said “ If you want to give your mother’s soul a z’chus (merit) light Shabbos candles.” Since that time, my wife lights the candles. This is Rabbi Reich. He finds the way to the person’s heart."
A Spiritual Reawakening
Nourishing Body and Soul
A true spiritual leader, Rabbi Reich supplies tallis, tefillin, and mezuzos. He performs Bris Milah for the children and sometimes adults, arranges for the festive meals to follow, and handles the complete wedding package, from traditional chupa, through financing all wedding expenses.
While there are morning and evening services at the shul during the week, the strength of the Kehillah is in its Shabbos and Yom Tov activities.
When a new member enters the shul, he is immediately greeted and given a seat and a tallis. The shul is equipped with Russian- Hebrew prayer books and Chumashim, and all the services are tailored to the needs of the new immigrants.
Rabbi Reich makes valuable use of every synagogue moment. Before the weekly reading of the Torah portion, he delivers a synopsis. During this time two volunteers study with the children, including those whose parents don't attend services. They tell then stories, sing with them, and give out prizes. Eventually most of the parents follow the children to shul.
Nourishing Soul and Body
After services, there is a sumptuous kiddush. There are five classes during the course of the day, ranging in subject matter from Alef Bais to Talmud, simultaneously translated in Russian. Holidays are even more exciting. Chanukah brings well over 200 people to shul, and everyone is given a Menorah, candles, chanuka gelt, and food: there are songs and stories. On Pesach, the Reich family Seder is also the Kehilla's Seder attracting hundreds of participants.
A Home Away from Home
If you would only understand...
Transmitting traditional values
with a Russian interpreter
Rabbi Reich has become a true father to the children. From studying with them, arranging classes and tutors for them, extracurricular activities, advice and counsel, Menachem Zion has become a second home for them. The mainstreaming of immigrant children into yeshivas and day schools is something Menachem Zion is proud of. Boys are currently attending institutions such as Chaim Berlin, Yeshiva of Brooklyn, Ateres Tzvi, Ratzhad & Shearith Israel, while girls have become accepted in Beth Jacob and other schools. Rabbi Reich and the Kehilla's Vaad Hachinuch are kept posted about how the students are progressing.
Menachem Zion provides a job placement program as well. They serve as home attendants, in Matzoh bakeries, and other areas of employment where they can fill a need.
Back to Basics
Rebbetzin Reich lectures and educates ladies
Of course, getting congregants to keep kosher is priority. Those who choose to do so receive two sets of dishes. The attention to detail can astound, Dina says. The Rebbetzin also gave me a blech for a gas range and a white tablecloth for shabbos.
The subject of family purity is broached very carefully by Rebbitzen Shifra Reich, who regularly lectures to women in the congregation. To Rabbi Reich , the reason for this is clear- often too much religion is foisted on people who are not prepared for it.
Handle with Care
Rabbi Reich views the souls of he work with as deprived of their basic spiritual needs. He has come to understand that, if they are overwhelmed with too much nourishment-Yiddishkeit - they will be harmed, not helped. And so he treats everyone on an individual basis, seeking a level of mitzvah observance which will nourish them properly.
A summer day with the children
Revamping the System
What does the future hold for Russian Jews in the U.S.? Rabbi Reich's solution is to teach others to implement his method to bringing our Russian brethren close to G-d. He sees the need for many other kehillos in New York and the entire country. He even has an idea for bringing the kehilla system back to the Jewish community at large.
But Menachem Zion was just the beginning...
The current wave of Russian immigration, dating back to early 1970's, differs greatly from its predecessor. From 1881 to 1911, 1.3 million Jews sailed past the Statue of Liberty into New York Harbor. They came to escape the pogroms and to find the gold that paved the streets of America. These new arrivals were mostly Orthodox. The plight is not much different from their predecessors. They come with little, as their rubles have no value, and they seek refuge from blatant anti-Semitism to make a better life. But where their forerunners were well aware of their religion, today's immigrants come with the baggage of communist indoctrination.
Some of the Problems they Face:
- Lack of proper job training and ignorance of the English language
- The cost of Kosher food
- Tuition for Yeshiva and Girls schools
The lack of basic secular and religious education in Russia hinders and adolescent from entering the proper grade and age level in school here in America. The results of this problem can be even more severe for adults, who cannot communicate and find gainful employment. Hence, special education is needed for all Russian immigrants to bring them up to par with their American peers.
Enter Rabbi Avrohom Reich:
A synthesis of the Chassidic and Yeshiva world, he has won the cooperation of the kiruv movement, local yeshivos of all affiliations, and of local businesses and charitable organizations.
Rabbi Reich's uniqueness, however, does not lie in these things. It lies in his approach to, and faith in, the pintele yid. Loosely translated by Rabbi Reich, There is a spark in every Jew that wants a connection with G-d. If you can connect with that seed of belief that exists in everyone. You can bring that person to the actualization of his spiritual potential.
Rabbi Reich has figured out that what these Jews have been missing for the past seventy years in the Jewish family. His shul is meant to be the family, and he is their tireless father. Even the elderly congragants perceive him as a fatherly presence. A family provides physical comfort and emotional and spiritual guidance, as does the Kehillah. The aim of their Kehillah is to be, in America, what was missing in Russia. It aims to recreate an atmosphere of total nurturing and make each member feel loved and feel that he or she belongs to that great family, the family of Israel.
This was the concept behind Kehillas Menachem Zion-Yotzei Russia, to create an umbrella for spiritual and material services.
Menachem Zion was not satisfied with its own little Kehilla. So much was left to be done- so many lost and wandering souls - Jews who wanted to be Jews, but didn't know how... So the Kehilla's outreach movement developed into a vital organization - HATZOLAS YISROEL.
- Educating Jewish immigrants about missionary tactics
- Social services
- Job placement
- Distribution of religious articles Tefillin, Mezuzos, Tzitzis, Etc.
- Help in preparing kosher kitchen
- Bris Milah - Bar mitzvas - Weddings
- Individual tutoring on religious and secular subjects
- Community - wide lectures
- Kosher meat stores at discounted prices for low income families
- Educating children and their Parents
- Passover Sedorim conducted on a large scale for many hundreds of families
- Mainstreaming Russian children into regular Yeshivos & Bais Yaakovs
and so much more...
One man can no longer do the job alone...
HATZOLAS YISROEL NEEDS YOU!