NEW OLIM ABSORPTION CENTER IN KFAR CHABAD
November 8, 2016
Nosson Avrohom in #1043, Chabad History, Kfar Chabad

At the entrance to Kfar Chabad, on a small hilltop, among pine and eucalyptus trees, is a large building which doesn’t quite fit into the pastoral surroundings. The building was used as a hostel for immigrant families who arrived in Eretz Yisroel from the United States, Western and Eastern Europe. Many irreligious families that made aliya went to this Chabad hostel where they met religious Jews for the first time in their lives. Here they absorbed the light of Torah and got a taste of holiness. * Nosson Avrohom visited the historic building and spoke with many of the people who worked there. 


When you enter Kfar Chabad, you cannot help but notice the large building among the trees on the right side of the main entrance to Kfar Chabad. At the foot of this building are a row of houses where Lubavitcher families live
.

Nearly forty years have passed since the day this building was built. It is much larger than the other buildings in Kfar Chabad. It was built on a hilltop and looks out over Kfar Chabad.

Probably most young people in Kfar Chabad, and even those who are middle aged, are unfamiliar with the history of the building. As for me, as a child growing up in Kfar Chabad, it wasn’t one of the places where we hung around.

***

Around Eretz Yisroel today there are thousands of immigrant families who came from America, Europe, Russia, the various satellite countries of the former Soviet Union, and even Iran and Syria. Many spent some time in Kfar Chabad’s immigrant hostel where they first absorbed the atmosphere of Eretz Yisroel as experienced through a Chassidic filter. Many of those people still keep in touch with various shluchim around the country thanks to those first days spent in Eretz Yisroel when they got to meet Chabad Chassidim.

To the Jewish Agency, the Joint, and the government officials of those days, it was just another place where immigrants were sent when they first arrived in Eretz Yisroel. But this is not how the Rebbe viewed it. It was the Rebbe who brought up the idea to Mr. Shneur Zalman Shazar, head of the Jewish Agency at that time. The Rebbe wanted the Jewish immigrants to be in a place that reminded them of their traditions. This would counter the heretical and liberal atmosphere which greeted the immigrants upon their arrival, despite many of them having come from traditional, conservative communities. Many immigrants were shocked when they arrived, seeing permissiveness rather than a life of Torah and tradition.

This was the idea behind the founding of the immigrant hostel, the premise being that their first impression was most important, and this impression should be one of Torah and mitzvos in a Chassidic atmosphere. The Rebbe asked the families in Kfar Chabad to help the immigrants and to invite them for Shabbos meals.

The Rebbe’s efforts were successful and the immigrant hostel was founded. Its superior reputation got around and many new immigrants, no matter their Torah background, asked the absorption officials at the airport to send them to Kfar Chabad. More than the good physical amenities at the hostel, the immigrants were greeted by a devoted staff of Chabad employees who took care of all their spiritual needs.

THE REBBE SENT THE IDEA IN WRITING TO SHAZAR

On Pesach Sheini 5726/1966, the Rebbe began to discuss with Shazar his desire to open a hostel in Kfar Chabad for new immigrants. This was after the founding of Beit Shazar in the center of Kfar Chabad. At that time, many immigrants arrived in Eretz Yisroel from the United States and Europe. In a long letter, the Rebbe wrote to Shazar about the necessity of opening a hostel for immigrants and his ideas about it:

There is a necessity for new immigrants from our former country who are not accustomed at all to a normal Jewish, traditional way of life, certainly not a Chassidic one, outside their homes, and did not see a Jewish street and Jewish environment like that of Kfar Chabad – to be, at least for a few weeks, in the atmosphere and surroundings of Kfar Chabad whose influence they greatly need. In order that as soon as they arrive in our Holy Land they should enter into a Chassidic routine, a life routine that is established and organized which already exists in the Kfar for eighteen years now, where they will find people their age, old people and middle aged and young people too. So that then, in the language of our Sages “the first, the first will be nullified,” and they will acclimatize to a Chassidic way of life lived openly without difficulties and mishaps. Therefore, it is vital and most effective to build apartments and a hostel for them in Kfar Chabad.

After describing the benefits that would accrue from drawing close the new immigrants as well as for the old timer Chassidim in the Kfar, the Rebbe concluded with these warm words:

Much more can be said about this and I am only bringing up the main points, in addition to the main thing, that one such as yourself does not require going on at length about matters in which you have contemplated, thought deeply and lived (the Rebbe added in Yiddish – lived in, lived over and lived through) these many years.

The Rebbe had already written to him about the idea in general terms and two years later the Rebbe expressed his gratitude in a letter upon being informed that construction had begun.

Rabbi Zalman Sudakevitz, an askan in Kfar Chabad in those days, says:

“R’ Binyamin Gorodetzky came on a special mission from the Rebbe, with copies of the exchange of letters between the Rebbe and Shazar regarding the hostel for immigrants which was planned for Kfar Chabad. This hostel was part of the government plan to establish ten immigrant hostels in various cities. Shazar dealt with this with the help of friends of R’ Gorodetzky from the Joint, and I was asked to get involved.

“It was a long and exhausting effort, since it wasn’t the norm for an agricultural settlement to absorb new immigrants. Being the deputy head of the district municipality and member of the Urban Development Committee, I had a good relationship with the Interior Minister. Ultimately, we overcame the problems and got the necessary permits. A contract was drawn up which said the building would be funded by the Joint and the Jewish Agency, and this funding would be deemed to be rental fees to Kfar Chabad which provided the land, and that after a set number of years the building would become the property of the Vaad of Kfar Chabad.”

THE REBBE TAKES AN INTEREST IN THE CONSTRUCTION

At first, the idea was proposed that part of Kfar Chabad Beis would be designated for Russian immigrants, but the Rebbe suggested and insisted that Kfar Chabad Beis be designated primarily for a girl’s school, while in the original Kfar Chabad they should build the hostel for immigrants from Russia.

The Rebbe did not suffice with letters to Shazar and got many Chabad askanim involved. In a private meeting with R’ Zushe Wilyamowsky on 11 Tishrei 5727 about the needs of the Kfar, the Rebbe discussed the immigrant hostel, as detailed in his notes recorded after that yechidus:

Rebbe: “What’s with the immigrant hostel? Where is it located? How many floors are they building? How many living units will it have?”

R’ Zushe: “They wanted to build near the youth center (Beit Shazar) and now they are planning on building next to the vocational school on one side and the home of [R’ Aharon] Friedman on the other side … There are now eighty units in the preparatory stages.”

Rebbe: “If possible, the [immigrant hostel] should have just two stories, two and a half stories, so it should be in a more rural and not urban form, but if they already began work on three stories, not to make problems for them, for we don’t need delays, just speed. In general, since there are cutbacks in the various ministries there needs to be an established grip on the construction through a substantial beginning such as real indications that construction has already started …”

R’ Boruch Gopin, a member of the Vaad of Kfar Chabad at the time, says:

“The treasurer of the vaad, R’ Zalmanov, and myself went twice, accompanied by people from the Jewish Agency, to already existing immigrant hostels, to find a model that we could copy at Kfar Chabad. After many travels, we found that the hostel in Ashdod was most suitable for us and we copied the construction in Kfar Chabad.”

YOU ARE MEANT FOR BIGGER THINGS

After the building was completed and immigrants began to arrive, the Rebbe repeatedly asked how they were doing and how things were progressing. He also sent many letters and instructions to R’ Shlomo Maidanchek, the director of the vaad. In a letter of 23 Elul 5734/1974, we see the Rebbe’s concern for the immigrants:

To the immigrants who are in the immigrant hostel in Kfar Chabad in our Holy Land, greetings!

In advance of the New Year which is coming upon us and all the Jewish people for good and blessing, I express my blessing to each and every one of you, a blessing of being written and sealed for a good and sweet year, materially and spiritually.

From time to time I ask and receive information about your progress regarding how you are managing, materially and spiritually. May it be Hashem’s will, who supervises every single one with particular supervision, that you settle down in the best possible way, both materially and spiritually, and as fitting for Jews – with the supremacy of spirituality over materialism and form over coarse matter.

If this ought to be the case everywhere, all the more so in our holy land, a land upon which Hashem your G-d’s eyes are from the beginning of the year until the end of the year.

May there be good news in all the above-mentioned in the New Year.

Respectfully and with redoubled blessing for a good and sweet year

M Schneersohn

Encouraging letters like this were received every so often.

After the hostel was established, the Agency appointed R’ Moshe Pollack, from Mizrachi, as the general director. The Vaad Kfar Chabad had to pick an administrative director of its own for the place and they chose Mrs. Sarah Raskin. She worked devotedly in this position for twenty years until the mid-eighties.

We met with Mrs. Raskin in her home in the center of Kfar Chabad and she emotionally told us her memories of those wonderful years:

“When my husband, Menachem Mendel, and I arrived in Eretz Yisroel and settled in Kfar Chabad, we already had two children. Back then, the Kfar was just developing. The roads were not paved and there were no phones, but the achdus was fantastic and real.

“One day, I heard that a branch of Bank HaDoar was going to open in Kfar Chabad and my friend, Mrs. Glazman, recommended me as an employee. The financial situation at the time was tough. Fruits and vegetables were not plentiful as they are today. I would give the apple peel to my older children and the soft inside to my younger children. My husband worked hard as a shochet but parnasa was difficult. Of course, I was happy with the job offer but the Rebbe thought otherwise.

“We went to the Rebbe that year and the Rebbe asked me in yechidus what I was doing for parnasa. I told him about the possibility of working at Bank HaDoar and said it’s hard, especially with two young children. I tried to convey that I believed I could manage, but the Rebbe interjected, ‘Your abilities can be used for far bigger things.’

“Around that time, R’ Shlomo Maidanchek asked me to host the farbrengens in which they hosted the leaders of the State. He considered my home a model of a simple, Chassidic home. I was happy to oblige. In my childhood, in my parents’ home in Leningrad, Chassidim would come and go, to and from our house. Of course, I did not hesitate. On special days in the calendar, Knesset members, ministers, and people from the military and the police would come. President Shazar visited twice along with the great Chassidim. I would serve gefilte fish and other refreshments. The kibbutznikim among them would marvel and say the food brought them back to their childhood.

“Then they began looking for a woman to run the immigrant hostel and R’ Maidanchek chose me. I got along well with Mr. Pollack, the Agency appointed director, who appreciated my professionalism. Many immigrants who came to Eretz Yisroel exerted pressure and submitted requests to go to the immigrant hostel in Kfar Chabad.

“In the early years, religious Jews came from the US and Europe. Most of them were intellectuals and educated. They were greatly impacted by the Chassidic atmosphere of Kfar Chabad.

“Throughout the years, the hostel was praised by the Agency and various immigration branches of the government. When they wondered about the secret to our success, I would say, ‘We have the Rebbe who blesses us.’ The Vaad Kfar Chabad contributed tremendously to the success of the operation.

“As for the Rebbe’s brachos, I made it a point to write occasional reports to the Rebbe about the hostel, knowing that he considered it quite important. In private audiences and in responses to my reports, I would receive encouraging answers. The Rebbe spurred me on.

“To the Rebbe it was very important that the immigrants be impacted by the atmosphere in the Kfar. Every Shabbos, the immigrants would be sent, according to a rotation system, to families in the Kfar. The hosts were always very gracious. In addition to delicious food, the guests listened to a thought on the parsha, Chassidic stories, and in general, were infected by the passion and enthusiasm of the Chassidim who had just left the Soviet Union.

“Throughout the years of the hostel’s operation, we were visited by high level government guests who accompanied R’ Maidanchek and other askanim from Kfar Chabad. They expressed their amazement over the Chassidic-village pioneering and the Jewish atmosphere.”

Some of the people in the Kfar, as well as her children, called Mrs. Raskin “Maon” (hostel) instead of Ima, as a result of her utter devotion to the needs of the immigrants.

In those days, there weren’t phones in every apartment and communication was inadequate. The immigrants who needed help with everything, felt comfortable visiting Mrs. Raskin’s home at all hours of the day to get advice and support.

“The immigrants from Georgia who made aliya during the Chassidic aliya from Russia in the mid-70’s were very traditional. One day, a middle-aged couple came to us with a girl and a boy. I welcomed them even though I knew they had been assigned to a hostel in a different city. They told me they were supposed to be elsewhere but they asked to be transferred to the Kfar, since in the place they were supposed to go there were many Georgian immigrants, including from their city, and they were afraid.

“I did not understand what the problem was. I would have thought they would be happy to be with their social group. I questioned them and tried to understand and then the woman burst into tears. I was taken aback and tried to calm her down.

“After a few minutes, when she had calmed down a bit, she told me that she wasn’t actually Jewish but she wanted to convert. Every time she tried, they dismissed her request. At first, I was stunned. I did not know what to say to her. Finally, when I had recovered somewhat, I told her to bang on the table and state that she wanted to convert. I could see that she was sincere.

“After a long time in which she studied Judaism with Mrs. Gnesia Shneur (who gave shiurim at the hostel) she went through the conversion process under the supervision of Rabbi Ashkenazi.

“I think that if the Georgian community has such a strong affinity for Chabad, it is thanks to the fact that many of them passed through the hostel and absorbed the Chabad atmosphere as soon as they arrived in this country.”

***

Memories of how they were treated at the hostel were not forgotten even many years later, as Mrs. Raskin went on to relate:

“My son goes twice a week to do mivtzaim at the airport. There are workers there who used to live at the hostel and they mention me to him with excitement. Despite the many years that passed since then, they appreciate what they got here.”

Mrs. Raskin finished her job in the middle of 5745 when the waves of immigration nearly stopped, while those who still arrived were not sent to Kfar Chabad. Two years after she left, the Agency closed the hostel.

The division of labor between the Jewish Agency and the Vaad Kfar Chabad worked out as the Rebbe wanted. The Agency took care of material matters and the people of the Kfar took care of the spirit by instilling Jewish tradition, and especially Chassidic enthusiasm, within the immigrants.

5732: IMMIGRANTS FROM THE SOVIET UNION ARRIVE

In the years 5732-3 a crack opened in the Iron Curtain and hundreds of Chassidic families emigrated from the Soviet Union to Eretz Yisroel. This caused a real demographic shift among the immigrant population of the hostel. The atmosphere changed from formal to homey, and inside the walls of the hostel there was an authentic Chassidic feel.

The Chassid R’ Simcha Gorodetzky was one of the honored personalities at the hostel. He served as the spiritual guide and mashpia of the hostel. He will not be forgotten by those who lived there. His warmth and willingness to help while he himself lived with little amazed people. His authentic Chassidic persona along with his hearty Chassidic conduct won the hearts of many immigrants who forged a strong connection to Chassidus. R’ Simcha infused an atmosphere of brotherliness among the immigrants. He gave shiurim on the parsha and halacha between Mincha and Maariv, he ran a gemach and gave loans to all in need, even when he knew that the person he was dealing with was very poor and had little chance of repaying the loan.

Every immigrant (from Russia, and in earlier years, more from the US and Europe) knew that R’ Simcha’s heart was wide open to hear his woes. He was willing to listen and ready to help both spiritually and mainly, materially.

His son Mordechai relates:

“One Chol HaMoed Pesach I was in Kfar Chabad and I davened in the Gindi family’s shul in the Levi Yitzchok neighborhood. When I had an aliya and was asked my name, I said, ‘Mordechai ben HaRav Simcha.’ When they realized that I was the son of R’ Simcha Gorodetzky, one of the Gindi brothers told me about my father’s great impact in shaping his family’s Chassidic life after making aliya. He said that when they came to Eretz Yisroel, each of the seven brothers was given a pair of t’fillin from the Agency, but my father asked them for the t’fillin and a week later brought each of them mehudar pairs according to Chabad custom.”

R’ Michoel Kil of Yerushalayim, who lived with his brothers and parents in the hostel at the beginning of 5730 after making aliya, described R’ Simcha:

“He was a big help to new immigrants, spiritually and mainly materially. Many immigrants arrived with almost no money and their situations were not easy.”

“He was an incredible model of bittul to the Rebbe,” said Mrs. Raskin. “In his authentic Chassidic behavior he managed to influence everyone, the inhabitants as well as the employees who expressed their amazement and admiration of him.”

R’ Kil added, “He was a man of truth. The Jews who came from Bucharia did not know much about Judaism. Their spiritual level was low and he took them on and helped them in the most astonishing way. Many of their children and grandchildren who follow our traditions have him to thank.”

SHIURIM FOR NEW IMMIGRANTS

Shiurim were given for the immigrants in the hostel. Rebbetzin Sima Ashkenazi was one of the people who gave shiurim.

“At first, when immigrants came from Europe and the US, I gave a shiur every Shabbos on the parsha in easy Hebrew. Later on, when many Russian Jews came, there were a lot of older women who did not understand Hebrew, even easy Hebrew. Out of respect for them, I switched to giving shiurim in Yiddish and thanks to them, I now speak a better Yiddish. I broke my teeth until I got used to it.

“The shiurim made an enormous impact. Eleven years ago, I stayed with a wonderful family named Gold in Crown Heights. They had made aliya decades ago from the US and had lived in the immigrant hostel. They said that the impact of those shiurim is still with them today.”

In the immigrant hostel there was a small hall that was used for local simchas, lectures, and to spread the wellsprings. Rebbetzin Ashkenazi continues:

“I used the hostel’s hall for lectures on Judaism. At a certain point, I found out that the nurses at the clinic in Kfar Chabad were talking to the women about limiting family size. I decided to do something about this.


“I went to the Health Ministry in Ramle together with Mrs. Gnesia Gopin and we spoke with the supervisor, a Jewish woman from Bulgaria who was not religious. I asked her to convene the nurses so we could give them a shiur that clarified for them the view of halacha and Judaism. At first she refused, ‘We can’t add a class since the study schedule is closed.’ We tried looking for other options but she remained adamant. We left her candle sticks for Shabbos candles and a phone number and we left.

“Apparently, what we said to her gave her no rest and a few weeks later she called Gnesia and said that she freed up time so she could accommodate our request. I used the hall at the immigrant hostel, which was one of the only halls in those days in Kfar Chabad. Duba Kaminetzky and Sarah Raskin helped me host the nurses in two groups on two Fridays. We used the opportunity to give them a tour of Kfar Chabad. The shiur began with a sicha from the Rebbe encouraging birth and then we had a program and a discussion. As a result of this the issue was resolved. Later on, they would send me a car so I could come and lecture to them on the topic.”

Mrs. Gnesia Shneur was responsible for the shiurim at the hostel and she herself gave shiurim in halacha:

“I taught Hilchos Shabbos, Kashrus and Family Purity. I saw the effect my shiurim had. There were those who arrived in Eretz Yisroel without basic knowledge of Judaism and they became Chassidim, and even those who did not become Chassidim, ran their homes according to halacha. There are families that arrived with meager knowledge of Judaism and thanks to the shiurim, not only did they change their homes, but their children are shluchim today!

“I lived near the hostel and once in a while I would go there and volunteer to learn with the women. One time, R’ Tzvi Hecht, who was in charge of Jewish matters there, asked me to start working at the hostel on a regular basis by giving classes.

“Over the years, there were many interesting stories as a result of the shiurim. One time, I was learning the laws of Family Purity with a young woman, and her mother-in-law began yelling at me. After calming her down, I found out that where she came from, they used a bathtub and not a mikva. It took me hours to appease her until she agreed with what I said.”

Gnesia spoke about how the Rebbe viewed their work at the hostel:

“I realized the Rebbe’s positive attitude toward the immigrant hostel in 5730 when I was asked to be the house mother at Beis Rivka. That year I had yechidus and I asked the Rebbe for a bracha while saying that I gave shiurim at the hostel. When the Rebbe heard that, he said, if so, I should not start working at Beis Rivka. Only years later, when the number of immigrants began to slow down significantly, and my work at the hostel stopped, did the Rebbe approve of my working at Beis Rivka.”

THE REBBE MAINTAINED CONSTANT CONTACT

R’ Tzvi Hecht’s official job from the Jewish Agency was “cultural director,” but his real job was director of Jewish activities. He was helped by Mrs. Batya Naparstek as well as by R’ Michel Rubashkin who was the afternoon clerk and helped a great deal.

“The connection with the Rebbe was serious and constant,” said R’ Hecht. “We wrote to the Rebbe about every activity we did. We also encouraged the people living in the hostel to write to the Rebbe and ask for his blessing in their personal matters. There is no question that the Rebbe was very fond of the hostel and those who lived there. I remember that one year an American who had shalom bayis problems wrote to the Rebbe and received a swift reply to discuss it with a knowledgeable rabbi. This greatly strengthened him and after a while I heard from him that all his problems had been resolved. One year we even had a representative from the hostel who won the raffle and was sent to the Rebbe on behalf of the Chassidim in Eretz Yisroel.

“One of our blessed activities was the Melaveh Malka which we held with lots of people in a Chassidishe atmosphere. People who moved from the hostel to other cities would ask for a Melaveh Malka ‘like in Kfar Chabad.’ A few times we got calls from other places with the question, ‘What is that special thing that you do on Motzaei Shabbos?’

“After the Melaveh Malka, Chassidim and others would come to farbreng with the people in the hostel based on their interests. When there was a large group of Georgian Jews, for example, we brought Chacham Refael. Among the regulars who farbrenged were R’ Yisroel Brod, R’ Aryeh Kelner, R’ Yona and R’ Meilich Lebenhartz. Those were sweet moments that are etched in the hearts of both the mashpiim and the immigrants.”

R’ Tzvi Hecht, like his predecessors, also says the impact on the immigrants lasted many years after they left the hostel. The following story illustrates that:

“One year, they came to me from the yeshiva in Kfar Chabad and said that a former resident of the hostel had become wealthy and had made a sizable donation to the yeshiva. He asked to send me regards.”

In the early years, religious, academic immigrants from the United States and Europe lived in the hostel. The rabbanim, R’ Meir Tzvi Gruzman and R’ Berel Kesselman would give shiurim there with the latter giving a shiur in Gemara every Wednesday. The immigrants would argue with him and were very satisfied.

“I won’t forget another colorful personality from those days, the partisan, R’ Zushe Wilyamowsky. He always came and asked what was going on. In addition, guests from the Jewish Agency came often. For a while, senior people from the military came to see what the immigrant hostel in Kfar Chabad was about. The place became a ‘brand name’ so that even the Agency people took pride in its success.

“In general, whoever left the hostel, left with a fondness for Chabad even if they didn’t put on a gartel and a sirtuk. People were exposed to generous portions of quality spirituality, and as R’ Simcha Gorodetzky would say, ‘When there is good gashmius, you can demand ruchnius.’”

FROM SYRIA
TO KFAR CHABAD

The Gindi family (mentioned earlier) was one of hundreds and even thousands of families who came to Eretz Yisroel and lived in the hostel for a while. This family miraculously escaped from Syria and ended up in the immigrant hostel of Kfar Chabad. Immediately upon their arrival, they brought a fresh spirit of revival to the place.

“Towards the end of 5744, we arrived after many wanderings to the hostel in Kfar Chabad,” began one of the brothers, R’ Avrohom Gindi. “I was a young kid. I remember that my father was amazed and excited by the place, which looked like a Jewish place in the fullest sense, as well as by the people who ran and worked in the place. Mrs. Sarah Raskin and Mrs. Batya Naparstek welcomed us warmly and took care of all our needs. My brothers were set up in appropriate schools and the rest of my family as well, all in the best possible way. The shul on the premises operated part time in those days since some of the older Russian immigrants did not know how to read and write in Lashon HaKodesh and were ashamed to go to shul.

“My father took the initiative and gave new life to the shul. The Russian immigrants who saw us, young ones, taking an interest in the shul and being involved in all the t’fillos, began to attend too. We were very influenced by the Tanya classes given by R’ Mordechai Nachimovsky who served as rav of the hostel. I remember my father leaving Friday night, after his shiur, being very impressed. Another personality who had a formative impact on our stay at the hostel was R’ Simcha Gorodetzky. We were very impressed by his Chassidic appearance, something we were not used to in Syria. His humility and righteousness won our hearts. We were supposed to spend nine months at the hostel but ended up staying there for twelve years!”

Regarding his father’s decision to remain in Kfar Chabad and not to leave like the rest of the families, R’ Avrohom said the following:

“We left Syria thanks to a bracha from the Rebbe. We became connected to Chabad Chassidus after two of my brothers and sisters were able to escape but we, the rest of the family, failed in our attempts to escape. My brother Ezra, who was by the Rebbe, received a bracha that we be able to get out. My brother immediately called and explained that we had received the blessing of a great tzaddik. At that time, we did not yet know of the Rebbe and we were afraid of getting caught again, and yet, we tried and succeeded.

“After such a big miracle through the Rebbe’s bracha, we connected to Chabad. When my father visited the Halabi community in New York, they tried to convince him not to remain in Eretz Yisroel because his children would not make it religiously, but when he told them that we were in the immigrant hostel in Kfar Chabad, they all agreed that that was the only good place for a family in Eretz Yisroel.

“These two things motivated my father to do all he could to remain in Kfar Chabad. When they wanted to close the hostel, they told my father that he had to move. My father told the Agency people, ‘I will continue to live in Kfar Chabad in a tent if I have to; I refuse to live anywhere else.’ There were many other difficulties on the way to achieving our goal – becoming official residents of the Kfar, but thanks to the Rebbe’s brachos, we live in the Kfar.”

Today, all the Gindi children live in Kfar Chabad and are Chassidim in every way, mekusharim to the Rebbe and involved in communal matters.

***

As mentioned earlier, the hostel was officially closed in 5747 after the stream of immigrants diminished, and those who came were sent elsewhere.

For a few years, the large building was vacant until 5750 when thousands of the “Chernobyl children” came. This is not the place to describe the events of those days. However, when orders came from the Rebbe’s secretariat to bring the children to Eretz Yisroel and rescue them, various agencies got to work.

The more time passed, the more dangerous it was for the children. It was decided to place the boys in the immigrant hostel building that had stood empty for a few years, while the girls were placed in the large Beis Rivka campus where they had dormitories and fully supervised accommodations.

For fifteen years, many groups of children arrived who needed medical treatment. The organization that was formed specially to deal with them helped with their medical and emotional rehabilitation, as well as their life and living arrangements when they left.

Now that the danger from radiation has diminished and Chabad outreach has developed in the former Soviet Union, especially in the Ukraine, almost no children are sent to Eretz Yisroel.

The shul at the former hostel is still active and is used on Shabbos by Chassidim who live in the area.

HE KEPT HIS PROMISE

R’ Tzvi Hecht has a story about the early days at the immigrant hostel:

“In one of the early years there was a simple Jew at the hostel. I once asked him why he did not attend any of our shiurim. He said, ‘After I make my first million, I will start learning.’

“I took this as a polite refusal. How surprised I was when a number of years after he left the hostel he showed up at a reunion we had arranged for those who had passed through the hostel over the years. When I reminded him of what he said, I found out that he had been very successful in the business he started. He divided the profits among his children and kept some in a personal fund and he used his spare time to learn.”

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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