Can One Person
Really Make a Difference? Yes! Just Read On...
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.
|Passing on our rich heritage
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
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?”
Children rewarded for excellence
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
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.
“Nourishing Body and Soul.”
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.
Soul and Body
|“If you would only understand...”
Transmitting traditional values
with a Russian interpreter
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
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.
|A summer day
with the children
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
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
|Rebbetzin Reich lectures
and educates ladies
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
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
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:
Enter Rabbi Avrohom Reich:
• Lack of proper job training and ignorance of the
• The cost of Kosher food
• Tuition for Yeshiva and Girl’s 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.
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
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.
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-
• Educating Jewish immigrants about
• Social services
• Job placement
• Distribution of religious articles Tefillin, Mezuzos,
• Help in preparing kosher kitchen
• Bar mitzvas • Bris Milah • Weddings
• Individual tutoring on religious and secular subjects
• Community - wide lectures
• Kosher meat stores at discounted prices for low income
• 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
HATZOLAS YISROEL NEEDS YOU!
Russian Jews survived seventy
years of Communism amidst overwhelming persecution.
Mitzvah observance became a thing of the past.
Many did not know even the basic of Shabbos and
kashrus. Yet despite it all, they made it with
knowledge that they were part of the Jewish people.
however, will be their fate in America?
Over 30,000 Jews from the
former Soviet Union now call the United States
home. They are free here to practice the faith
of their fathers, but the absorbing reality is
that most members of the transplanted Russian
community have little connection to a living Judaism.
The Russians survived Russia but could they survive