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Monday
Jul142014

CHINUCH REVOLUTION IN KRAYOT

In the summer of 5733/1973, the Rebbe asked that summer camps be founded and that children be worked with in every way possible. For the first time in history, camps were established throughout Eretz Yisroel. * The story of one of those camps that was founded in Haifa-Krayot by R’ Zushe Partisan, R’ Reuven Dunin, and R’ Yigal Pizem.

Thousands of children are enjoying Chabad camps throughout Eretz Yisroel (and the world). It seems that there isn’t a city or even a yishuv throughout the country without some kind of Chabad summer program. To the young ones amongst us, that’s just the way it is and always has been, but that’s not so.

Until 5733, there was one Chabad camp which was in Kfar Chabad. It was attended by Lubavitcher children from all over as well as mekuravim.

“You have to understand that Chabad was tiny in those days,” says R’ Yigal Pizem, the one who started the first Chabad camp in the Haifa-Krayot area and serves as the rav in the Chabad community of Kiryat Shmuel.

“The main Chabad community was in Kfar Chabad and there was also a community in Yerushalayim. A short while earlier, the Rebbe founded the communities in Nachalat Har Chabad in Kiryat Malachi and in Shikkun Chabad in Lud. The community in Tzfas was founded only in the summer of that year with the arrival of R’ Aryeh Leib Kaplan, a few weeks before the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War. The new centers were too recently founded to organize summer camps. There were hardly any Chabad houses in the country so that the concept of a Chabad camp for mekuravim did not exist.”

So what happened in the summer of 5733 that triggered the opening of several camps? 

The Rebbe said a sicha on Erev Shavuos that galvanized R’ Zushe Wilyamowsky, known as the Partisan, to action. R’ Zushe traveled around the country and urged people to start educational summer programs.

KRAYOT IS THE FRONT LINE

Erev Shavuos, the Rebbe asked that every Jewish child receive a Torah education during the summer vacation. The Rebbe demanded, asked and beseeched, that children be worked with in every possible way: learning Torah, giving tz’daka, etc. The Rebbe quoted the verse from T’hillim, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings have You ordained strength because of Your enemies, that You might still the enemy and the avenger.” Later on, he asked that the schoolchildren be taken to the Kosel and the graves of tzaddikim in order to pray and pour out their hearts to Hashem so that the decree against the Jewish people be annulled.

“It was puzzling to us,” recalls R’ Pizem. “I remember it as though it was today. The Rebbe made a big deal about the need to work with children to still the enemy and avenger, but nobody knew what the Rebbe was referring to. What enemy and avenger? It was after the Six Day War and there was euphoria in the streets. Yehuda-Shomron was in our hands, we had the Kosel, Kever Rochel, Kever Yosef, Chevron and the M’aras HaMachpeila. Why was the Rebbe making this commotion? What happened? The Rebbe gave Chassidim the feeling that they had to take action and the more the better, in order to save the Jewish people.

“One day, R’ Zushe Partisan came to my house with a shlichus from the Rebbe. He asked that we travel together to R’ Dunin’s house and I was happy to oblige. In R’ Dunin’s house, R’ Zushe said that the shlichus of this year was to do things under the heading of ‘out of the mouths of babes and sucklings.’ He mentioned all the publicity that the Rebbe’s message was getting in Eretz Yisroel and the publicity in the newspapers and said that since it would soon be vacation, we had to organize a Chabad camp for irreligious kids so they would learn Torah and say T’hillim.

“R’ Zushe often came to Haifa and the Krayot in order to advance various projects of the Rebbe but this was something different. It wasn’t a targeted activity but the founding of a mosad which nobody had any experience in. I remember that R’ Zushe banged on the table and said, ‘The Krayot area is the front line.’ 

“We left the meeting having resolved that the Rebbe wants a camp in the Krayot and he’d have one. Where would we get the money? Where would we get a place for a camp? And the biggest unknown – where and how would we get kids? There wasn’t a single Chabad mosad in the north, nobody knew our educational capabilities; would parents be willing to rely on us and send us their children? These questions were there but not in order to wiggle out of the shlichus; on the contrary, to spur it on. It was clear that the Rebbe wanted this to happen, so it would.”

In those days, the Chabad community in Krayot-Haifa was very small; you could count the people on one hand. A few years earlier, R’ Yigal Pizem had become interested in Chassidus while being a teacher in a Mizrachi high school in Kiryat Shmuel. Every week, he would go to Haifa to R’ Dunin’s house and they would talk, learn and further Chabad activities in the north of the country.

“The motto that summed us up back then was action,” smiled R’ Pizem. “We made a list of three things that we had to take care of immediately so that the camp could get off the ground. 1) Get a place for a camp; 2) Get funding; 3) Get a talented staff. Since I was a teacher in a religious high school with the Rebbe’s blessing, R’ Dunin decided that the task would fall to me. As for money, he said, ‘If there’s a problem, say that I, Reuven Dunin, am ready to mortgage my house for this.’”

THE MAYOR OF YERUSHALAYIM IS APPOINTED DIRECTOR OF THE CAMP

After a lot of hard work that R’ Pizem did in locating a suitable place for a camp, along with negative responses from many people, he finally found a plot of land on the border between Kiryat Shmuel and Kiryat Mochkin. All he had to do was get the approval of the municipality. Those who know how city bureaucracy works, knows that this was no easy matter, particularly when nobody in the municipality was familiar with Chabad’s work.

“The one who helped us a lot in getting the permits was R’ Moshe Drukman of Kiryat Mochkin, the father of the rav of the city today. He was a special man, a first class askan who did things quietly and modestly. He had connections with key people and he introduced us to the mayor at that time, Moshe Goshen.

“The mayor heard our request and asked, ‘Where will you get the money to fund this? I can’t give you money.’ I told him that we operate as shluchim of the Rebbe and added that R’ Reuven Dunin was willing to mortgage his house for this. Hearing this, the mayor was moved. ‘If there is someone who is willing to lose his personal property for this, that shows that this is worthy and genuine.’ At that same meeting he signed the permits.”

R’ Moshe Zev Pizem is a shliach in Sderot today. He remembers that camp. He was 11 at the time and took an active role. Despite his young age, he helped out and was a member of the staff. When we asked him to tell us about the camp, his strongest memory is of the physical location of the camp.

“Today, they would not approve of this camp,” he said with a smile. He himself runs a camp in Sderot. “We spent two weeks in a grove near the train tracks without a fence between us. Primitive makeshift fences cut between the camp for the girls and the camp for boys. The campers were supposed to bring string, papers and egg cartons from home for arts and crafts. The conditions were very basic and if I made something like that today, I would not have any campers, but that was a different era.”

After a place was found, R’ Pizem worked on putting a staff together. There were hardly any Chabad families in the area so he had to recruit talmidim from Mizrachi who were involved with Chabad. “I had a talmid, a great bachur with good middos, called Uri Lupoliansky, who later became the mayor of Yerushalayim. I knew he was a real chevraman so I contacted him and he immediately agreed.”

R’ Moshe Pizem remembers the counselors and mainly Uri. “He was a great guy, charismatic. Thanks to him, the atmosphere was relaxed with full control of the children. One of his big talents was in coming up with fun activities. I remember how he came in wearing magician’s clothes and turned a cigarette butt into a bill (money) and back again. Every day he did magic tricks and the kids loved him. I remember that a few years ago, we both attended an event that took place at the Kosel plaza and I suddenly realized that I was holding his hand and we were dancing together in a big circle. I said, ‘Hello counselor from the camp in Kiryat Mochkin.’ He looked at me and then smiled and immediately identified me as a Pizem.”

Lupoliansky worked on a daily schedule and enlisted talented counselors including R’ Yosef Fogel, today one of the heads of Arachim, R’ Uri Gross and others who were Gerrer Chassidim.

R’ Shlomo Kupchik’s daughters from Kiryat Ata, Elisheva and Chaya, took responsibility for the girls’ camp. They were attending Beis Yaakov at the time and they got good counselors from there. “Most of the counselors came from Kiryat Seret Vizhnitz in Haifa,” said R’ Pizem, alluding to the days when there were hardly any walls between sectors.

CHILDREN OF IMMIGRANTS ALONG WITH OLD-TIMERS

They had a place and they had staff. The big question remaining was: where would they get the children? The talmidim from Mizrachi circles were well established in their activities, and in those days, Chabad was seen as very strongly opposed to Zionism.

“In the Kiryat Shmuel of my childhood, there was a hatred toward Chabad and the Rebbe,” recalled R’ Moshe Zev Pizem. “I remember that a sicha of the Rebbe about aliya to Eretz Yisroel was publicized in which the Rebbe explains the greatness of the land and why a Jew who lives there needs to be more careful. They considered this anti-Zionistic as though the Rebbe opposed aliya and this caused a big commotion.”

This is why they decided to find children not necessarily from religious families for the camp. The name given to the camp was Todaa (awareness).

In those days, many Russian immigrants had come and settled in Haifa and Krayot. R’ Dunin suggested inviting R’ Berel Zaltzman and R’ Binyamin Malachovsky from Nachalat Har Chabad to Haifa. They had worked a lot with new immigrants and they could persuade them to send their children to the camp.

“They had their own car and in those days, that was a novelty. They slept and ate by me and for many hours every day they circulated in the neighborhoods where immigrants from Russia and the Caucasus lived. They would speak into a megaphone in Russian and tell the immigrants to send their children to the Lubavitch camp. They got many kids this way. I remember being surprised by how successful they were and how parents relied on them and entrusted their children to them without any prior acquaintance.

“There is an incident that is etched in my memory from that visit. It was the first time that I met Chassidim who had just come from communist Russia. The second night that they spent in my home, one of them suggested we farbreng and he asked for mashke. I told him I had no mashke in the house. He was so shaken by this that he said to his friend, ‘Let’s escape from here. A place like this without mashke is dangerous to stay in. It’s pikuach nefesh!’ When I heard this, I reassured them that I would go and get mashke. At 12 o’clock at night I walked around the streets of Kiryat Shmuel until I found an open store and a bottle of vodka. When I brought it home, they calmed down.”

The camp was almost ready to begin but what threatened its existence was money, the lack thereof. The parents who sent their children to camp mostly came from lower economic brackets. They were new immigrants or families without much money. Fundraising fell on the shoulders of R’ Pizem and R’ Dunin.

“The one who helped us a lot was R’ Avrohom Elkona of Anash in Haifa who worked as an insurance agent and still does. He was one of the first Chabad activists in Haifa who worked, among other things, with IDF orphans. He helped us write letters to organizations and various people to ask for help.”

R’ Elkona remembers that time when Chassidim worked tirelessly and laid the groundwork for the tremendous work being done today in the Krayot. “In addition to money, each activist got children into the camp,” he remembers. “We knew this was an instruction from the Rebbe and that it would give him nachas.”

The letters that they sent helped to a certain extent, but they had many expenses. “There was a woman who helped us a lot. Her name was Mrs. Vardi and she was active in B’nei Akiva and worked for the Jewish Agency. She directed us to various factories so we could get surplus silver foil and cartons for the arts and crafts without our having to pay anything. She also got us a nice sum of money from the Jewish Agency and the camp got off the ground. And yet, when the camp was over, our personal debt amounted to 2600 liras. In today’s terms, that would be quite a nice sum of money.”

TRUCKS ON THE ROAD TO MIRON

The camp began a few days before Tisha B’Av. Two days before, the staff showed up and made huts and tents. The counselors decorated the area colorfully. Despite the lack of funding, the atmosphere was uplifting. The feeling among the staff and the children was that something new was starting.


R’ Moshe Zev Pizem recalls, “The counselors knew what to do. For hours every day we would find ourselves sawing, cutting and gluing and all of it was from simple materials that were readily available. We made terrific projects of mezuzos and tz’daka boxes. Today, I look back and am amazed. We did not have to spend a shekel on beautiful projects and these occupied the children for hours.”

The organizers were well aware of the Rebbe’s instruction to take the children to holy sites to pray there to “still the enemy and the avenger.” Nobody understood this but they followed the instructions, as R’ Moshe Zev Pizem relates:

“I remember that we sent notes home to the parents announcing the trip. A few vehicles left from the Krayot with the children. A bus was a luxury, so we went in trucks. We would climb a ladder and jump into the bed of the truck. Today I wonder how the parents sent their kids for this, but that is the way it was. Before we left, my father bought a lot of rolls from Davidowitz’s bakery so the children wouldn’t be hungry.”

A SURPRISING DELEGATION OF DISTINGUISHED CHASSIDIM

One day, the children and counselors had a surprise. A delegation of Chassidim who were sent by the Rebbe, led by R’ Dovid Raskin, came to visit the camp and see it for themselves. R’ Yaakov Peles and R’ Zushe Partisan were also there.

The younger Pizem remembers the visit. They announced the visit in the morning and the children were excited that a rabbi from New York was coming to visit them.

“First, my father introduced him to the children who sat in perfect silence even though he blessed them in Yiddish and not one of them knew a word of Yiddish.”

That summer, the delegation also visited other camps that were founded that year. Later on, R’ Raskin conveyed his impressions to the Rebbe. Just a few days passed from the day of the visit and R’ Dunin in Haifa received a letter sent by R’ Raskin which said that he had sent in a report to the Rebbe about R’ Dunin and R’ Pizem’s work. He wrote that the goal was for the children to continue afterward in proper schools. The Rebbe responded and thanked him for the report and blessed him to relate good news in that regard.

The letter generated a lot of excitement. The fact that the Rebbe had received a detailed description of the camp greatly inspired the staff of counselors.

The first camp took place in the summer of 5733 and was very successful. “Aside from the delegation of Chassidim who came to visit, people from the Education Ministry also came in order to see how to integrate children from Israeli homes together with immigrant children.”

The camp also had long term successes. Not for naught does the Rebbe call summer camps “the anvil upon which Chassidim are formed.”

R’ Pizem: “I recently went to a shul in Kiryat Shmuel and met a gray haired fellow. He came over to me and asked whether I recognized him. I don’t know how but I remembered him, Mordechai Kadosh is his name. He was a student in the religious high school and attended that camp and others. He was known as a mischievous child. Many thought he wouldn’t stay on the straight and narrow, but there he was, a religious man, grandfather to religious grandchildren.

“The camp continued in the years to come and each time I would take counselors from the students at the high school where I taught, usually those who had begun taking an interest in Chabad. This outreach experience clinched their involvement.”

In 5735, R’ Yosef Hartman ran the camp. He said that it was R’ Pizem’s method to take young fellows who were spiritually searching as counselors in the camp and that shortened their road to Chabad. “The year that I ran the camp there were two brothers who worked as guards and today both are famous shluchim.”

Every summer from then on there was a Chabad camp in the Krayot with many children. There were years that over a thousand participated. The Rebbe sent many encouraging letters and in each letter he asked that this be an “ongoing activity,” that the work not end with these few weeks but have an effect over the entire year. At the end of the summer 5734, the organizers sent the Rebbe a beautiful album of their work. The Rebbe responded on 5 Cheshvan by saying how pleased he was to receive the album and hear about their success, and that he hoped it would have a good influence on the rest of the year. 

A letter was added by the Rebbe’s secretary, R’ Nissan Mindel, and addressed to R’ Yigal Pizem with the same date, which said that even though the album was received in Tishrei after the summer season was over, surely he would find a way to make use of the Rebbe’s letter. Surely they were in touch with the children throughout the year.

The Rebbe’s request was fulfilled. The work did not end with the end of camp but continued the rest of the year. “During the year we would hold gatherings for children and invite the campers,” said R’ Pizem.

***

The first camp was a big success. The camps that came later were given a different name, Mivtzaim camps. Every year a camp has been held in the Krayot, till this very day, 41 years later.

 

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE SUMMER MONTHS

Summer camps began way earlier than 5733 but they moved into high gear since 5733. The Rebbe’s sicha about the spiritual power of children reached many places in Eretz Yisroel and the world and thanks to that, camps were opened. Over the years, the Rebbe’s talks on the subject also intensified.

In 5734, the Rebbe called upon all students, boys and girls, to use the summer productively, for spiritual gains. The Rebbe used an analogy of a person swimming under water who holds his breath for a few minutes. When he takes his head out of the water he feels a strong urge to breathe in plenty of fresh air. So too, after a fast day, when the body is weak from lack of food and drink, a person feels revived upon eating and drinking when he breaks his fast.

The nimshal is that during the school year, when some hours of the day that could be used for Torah and mitzvos are used for secular studies or optional things that are not food for the soul, that period of time is like a “fast” for the neshama, a holding of breath. This arouses an even greater yearning for Torah and mitzvos like a person who yearns for energy when he is weak and pained. When summer comes … this is the time to restore to the soul that which it lost and revive it two times over.

The Rebbe goes on to say that during the summer you can be involved in Torah and mitzvos under more suitable conditions, with peace of mind, comfortably, and in a nice atmosphere.

 

 

HOW HE BEGAN

R’ Yigal Pizem’s work in spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus in the Krayot began in 5727, when he was mashgiach ruchni in Yeshivas Pirchei Aharon in Kiryat Shmuel. He taught Tanya to the talmidim of the yeshiva in his home on Friday night and in his lessons in the yeshiva he included in-depth study of Kuntres U’Maayan and Likkutei Torah.

The big change occurred in 5732 when the Rebbe asked for 71 new mosdos. R’ Pizem took part in founding a Torah afternoon learning program called Chadrei Torah Ohr.

In Tishrei 5733, when he had yechidus, the note he submitted to the Rebbe asked: Since there are parents who are not connected to Chassidus, should the mosad officially be called Chabad. The Rebbe’s answer was the main thing is that the Rebbe is the balabus (the one in charge).

 

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