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It was an unusual summer vacation, all right. But the signs indicated that it was necessary. My kids were living a life of pizza and bribes to keep motivated, and my own practice of Avodas Hashem was falling into a habitual bliss. Clearly, it was time for a change. The solution? I decided to pack myself and my 3 boys, ages 11, 9 and 6, off to Kiev. It may sound like a drastic step, but I had hopes of renewing our appreciation for what we have--and what many of us take for granted in living a Torah life. My parents survived World War II, though not without having most of the entire family destroyed through Hitler (may his memory be erased). Thus, a logical place, I thought, to ignite our feelings of commitment would be the camp of the local Jewish School in Kiev

Most people tend to be wary from past experience. But I threw all caution to the winds and decided to really get into the spirit of the trip by flying Russian. The fact that I hadn't particularly enjoyed the flight the last time I had flown Russian, five years before, didn't deter me. At that time, it was true that there hadn't been any air-conditioning on the plane. But it couldn't possibly still be that way today ... could it? The "warm feeling" that settled over my seat let me know that I had been overly optimistic. As the morning sky approached, I felt that familiar heat start to suffocate my very pampered American comfort. Embraced in my tallis, tefillin and broken Polish, I pointed to the place which looked like a vent and said "Hot" in three languages--English, Polish and the pain in my eyes. The steward, a nice enough fellow, acknowledged there was indeed something to my claim--though he didn't feel it himself. I put some extra effort into my tefillos and lo and behold, the coolness eventually allowed me to breathe again. I marveled at my fellow passengers who, as good citizens of the state, sat back in the heat and accepted their fate with pride.

Our first encounter with Russian beaurocracy came when we exited the aircraft and passed through gate 1 of customs. Picture this: All four of us with peyos and tzitzis, and about 13 pieces of luggage, including sleeping bags . . . would he really believe that we had only come for a month? I watched as a Russian lady and her little girl were being thoroughly shaken down--for no discernable reason that I could see. My heart shrank. I had suitcases full of prizes, my papers said I had nothing to declare--how could the customs official help but think that I was planning on selling them on the black market? My turn finally came. The stern-looking official glanced at my papers, handed them back and asked how much in dollars I had brought. I quickly scribbled in an amount, he barely glanced at it, signed it and waved me on. That episode alone was enough to make someone a believer! After exiting customs, we were greeted by our driver, who waited for us with a sign--and a Jewish star blazing upon his chest, proudly proclaiming his identity. Once out of the airport, we headed to our destination in the Poltava region, some 5 hours from Kiev. We made a bit of a detour to get a cellular phone (after all, how could you leave home without one?). Safe and secure with a cell phone once again, we were finally on our way. I had no way of knowing that halfway through the trip, my cellular dream would become no more than just a dream

… We got to the camp late Wednesday night, to be greeted by some old friends. We were temporarily put up in the field hospital. It's not exactly the Hilton, but here it was considered luxurious accommodations. We managed to hold on to our rooms for our first Shabbos, but Sunday morning--on Tishah B'Av--our Russian camp director politely requested that we move to the bunks of the other campers. When a Russian director asks you with that sort of look, you do as you're told! At least our first Shabbos was spent in relative comfort. My kids had enough shocks the first few days as it was. The first shock was no milk and cereal. In fact, there was no dairy whatsoever! One of my kids became nothing less than a sponge for mosquitoes. Between the swelling and crying and the no air-conditioning, I was certain that my sons would never manage. But unbelievably, within just a few days they started to adjust. As I write my story, the nearly two hundred kids in camp are building models of the Bais Hamikdash. Many of the kids are quite intrigued by the use of my laptop and how sophisticated our frum world is. The hours of this fast day are coming to a close. Sitting here in the Russian woods, seeing what is left of Russian Jewry, can itself bring one to tears. The campers here keep Shabbos and kashrus, not to mention the many who are fasting. At home, the resistance to all this is incredible. Yet here they are, eager to learn. Surely this is the essence of the lifestyle that my parents always spoke of. Moetzei Tishah B'Av proved to be unexpectedly exciting. It happened to be quite a hot day, much more than the norm for this region, and in typical Russian style the caretaker had left for the main town five hours away without attending to our needs. We were left without mattresses, light bulb, curtains . . . our room needed quite a bit of cleaning, there was no place to hang our clothes, and so on. Our caretaker was a very fine man, but as was explained to me later, a Russian simply doesn't think that these things are important! I finally understood the Gemara that writes about who is considered a rich man: at the very top of the list is someone with a bathroom next to their home. Our new accommodations were a bit rough for even a seasoned camper, let alone my crowd. Finally, I approached the Rav of the camp about our problems. The Rav explained that he, too, for over a year had no commode in the bathroom, no hot water, no fruits and vegetables . . . he had adopted two children (one with epilepsy) and had been through and seen most of the better part of this Russian environment. Upon hearing of our plight, he graciously provided my kids and me with an ample supply of good old American Coke and Sprite. While we rarely drink soda at home, here it was simply a lifesaver! The Rav then went to the doctor in charge of the hospital where we had stayed and asked for a partial pardon to our sentence. A compromise was worked out, whereby we were granted the use of the bathroom and bathtub. They didn't look like much--township officials back home would probably condemn the facilities--but not so here. This was our first major victory in our struggle for survival. But it was nearly overshadowed by our first night in the campers' quarters. The metal frame and accompanying springs were simply too much for my back. I ended up taking the mattress (World War II vintage) and accompanied the bugs, mosquitoes and other friends I'd grown to know to the floor, and put my kids on the bed. Hey, at least they fit! Of course, I recognized that our problems were trivial compared to those who truly lacked important things. For example, last night the soccer coach, a Russian who had remarkable chemistry with the kids, was told that his mother, who is alone, had passed on, and his wife, who is a sick woman, could not help the situation. The camp hired a car and sent him to his home in Odessa, probably some 10 hours from here at least. Medicine and health care is simply inadequate. The people who come here to spread Torah do so at complete personal sacrifice. It is now 4 a.m. camp time, 5 a.m. local time: time to get up and prepare for my first day of teaching. There is a local lake to swim in, too. The other item on the agenda is to find someone to do the laundry. No doubt that will be a story in itself . . . Monday night, the night after the fast, the Sports Director showed up. I watched as he took command, and I could literally see how a magical eloquence took hold of the compound. One thing is apparent: no matter how much of a mess the country seems to be in, the professionalism of their educators is still unequalled. The competence that Russian athletes exhibit in their quest for the Olympic gold showed its heart in this Ukrainian camp this very night.

Aside from directing all sports activities, which is a core of the camp, the Sports Director organized a 3 hour competition among the kids. One talented volunteer counselor sang a tune, and the other boys who could tried to follow along. The tune changed several times until only a few campers were left. Then the theme changed to creative dance steps. The final two competitors fought it out, singing one tune after another, until the director finally jumped up and called it a tie. Today I had my first student, a robust 14-year-old who spoke a little bit of Hebrew. He was undaunted by his lack of knowledge, and very committed: he wanted to learn Torah, and since that's what I was here for, he was going to take full advantage of the situation. After spending some time learning with him--which involved some complicated acting and charades to get across the meaning of Hebrew words--I finally noticed his Russian-English dictionary. Despite the difficulties in communication, this young boy did not lose his enthusiasm or concentration. My eldest son was simply amazed at his perseverance. Back home, my son goes to an incredible school and has an excellent private rebbe. Nevertheless, he has never seen such a strong desire to learn. Tuesday morning, about 5:45 am camp time, I went swimming with my boys in an incredible Russian lake with no signs of life--just complete quiet and pure nature. After living with two cell phones and three phone lines and constant pressure, it's been quite a switch. Critics might argue that you can have the same thing at any retreat. But we didn't come here just for freedom from technology. The experience of giving over Hashem's Torah to a culture that has been devoid of Torah for so long is simply incomparable. My children are watching their father spend his time on one thing only: teaching and learning Torah. The value of this lesson is incalculable. Today, I had my first group session with two of the boys who speak English quite well. We learned the first Mishna in Baba Kama, and they absolutely could not get enough. My schedule has now expanded to start teaching from 6 am until the nighttime. It may sound hard, but these people are giving me far more than I am doing for them. The teachers of the school, the cooks, the attendants--all want to come learn. They will come to my new Bais Midrash--my newly fixed up room, complete with table and chairs-any time it is convenient for me. The desire and the fire in their eyes are heartrending. How can there be so many today who have the Torah in their hands, yet are depressed and unmotivated?

On our first Wednesday in camp, things finally started to fall into place. After taking my boys swimming at 5 a.m., we found on our return back after 6:15 that two boys had been waiting for an hour. Apparently it was a misunderstanding between camp time and real time, an hour's difference. But the boys did not complain a bit. They were simply happy to have someone teach them, no matter what the conditions. 10 p.m.: Six learning sets later. As I await the camp sports director, I mull over the many facts that this day has brought to light. Most boys don't have a bris milah, and their battle to go to a Jewish school and camp is really something to note. For example: Yitzchok's mother was or is the national champion in checkers. She has very anti-religious sentiments. When Yitzchok wants to learn, go to school or speak to a rebbe on the phone, she opposes it vehemently. Yitzchok told his rebbe that his mother beats him every time he wants to do something Jewish. Nevertheless, he said, "Keep calling. Eventually she'll get tired of beating me!" The stories keep coming, one after another. The obstacles that these young boys must overcome are beyond imagination. Particularly in this disciplined, military society, it is completely uncharacteristic for a child to defy his parents so openly. As the days go by, my boys start to see that what they have back home simply cannot be taken for granted. So many here are without basics like bris milah and aleph bais, reading, writing, basic knowledge of davening. Yet their desire to learn, their respect and punctuality coupled with their total concentration make them unmatched pupils. It is no less than a crime for them not to have the proper Rabbeim that they need! The sports director begged me to come spend a year in Kiev. There sits a school of 600, with only two Limudei Kodesh teachers and virtually no one to teach Gemara. Here in Kiev there is an incredible struggle for true Jewish survival and identity. In this, the largest town in the Ukraine, there is such a struggle for basics! Local support is almost non-existent. The wealthy men of the Jewish community were often the only Jews left in their immediate family. Many of them married local Russian women, and now their grandchildren no longer qualify to come to the school. This past Shabbos Parshas Vaeschanan brought me a headache but a lot of satisfaction. The kids came to me for their first shiur (lecture) at 6:30 a.m., and the learning continued past midnight. After Shabbos and a quick fix with a couple of strong Tylenol-type local pills, I was back at it! The campers' capabilities are quite incredible. They sit for hour after hour, listening to my best mussar, halacha, Chumash and Gemara shiurim, then tell it over to their friends in Russian! Also remarkable is their self discipline and respect for a teacher. As long as I keep them is as long as they'll sit. They never said that they had enough, despite the fact that on several occasions, I saw that they had . . . but I was enjoying myself so much that I couldn't stop! My wife managed to get through on Erev Shabbos. My kids told her they would like to stay as long as they could, they now like it here. This revelation is nothing less than astonishing. Despite the beds, toilet facilities and so on, they like the camp, the kids--and the real point of what this trip is all about. Here they can see and taste the essence of life. There is no pizza, ice cream or goodies here, yet somehow they are holding up! For my own part, I had thought that having no Chinese take out would be my end. But somehow, the need for that, too, has faded. We sit here in the middle of Russia with essentially no telephone, radio, or distractions: just our seforim to learn from and endless boys to teach. It makes me wonder, what are we really and truly doing with our lives? What do you tell a 12 or 13 year old who asks, why can't I just live as a Jew, without doing mitzvos? What you answer and how you answer could affect his whole life--and you just happen to be the one who was given the job of responding. The responsibility is immense.

My days have come down to a normal routine. Basically I have two groups, the 15 year olds and the 13 year olds. Both are equally dedicated and motivated. One group comes at 6:30 a.m. There is davening, breakfast, learning till lunch which is at 1:10 p.m., learning again until 4 p.m., snack time, a quiz session, mincha, afternoon learning till supper at 6:50, night activity (which many boys skip, coming to me for more learning instead), then Maariv and some late night learning with adults. All in all, it's so hectic I barely have time to swim. My swimming time is either 5 a.m. or 5 p.m. Today is Monday the 10th of August, according to my Chofetz Chaim calendar. Except for that, and my wife beating the Russian phone network once a week, I would have no idea of what's happening outside in the world! Today, since the weather was too cool to swim, my boys learned almost 3 straight hours, then had time to tell me a little about the underlying facts of Russian Jewish life here in Kiev. The school here, which has as many as 500-600 boys and girls, attracts children who are halachically Jewish. The parents send them for varied reasons: the secular education is superior, and some parents prefer that their children mix with Jews. While most families have at least one non-Jewish parent, the school tries its best to have only halachically Jewish children attend. The Ukrainian secular curriculum is very structured and exact. This curriculum is followed by the Jewish school, as well as an additional class period of 40 minutes, plus davening. Of course, there is also proper kashrus and holidays off. The Russian system has many schools. A typical secular Russian or Ukrainian school starts at 9 and ends at 1 or 2. The Jewish school, on the other hand, starts at 8 and may finish at 7. Additionally, the school provides food, up to two full meals and snack. Judging by how the boys don't miss a meal or a snack here in camp, this must be a decisive point in the parents' decision to send their children to the school. Indeed, a Vaad of kashrus has grown together with the school, servicing the Israeli Embassy and a very large Jewish Senior Citizens complex. In effect, the school operates a full-time bakery. They sell bread to anyone who needs it. If you're looking for kosher baked goods in Kiev, the school is the place to go. The school is in dire need of proper Jewish educators for teaching and program structure. Because of the high turnover of teachers, there is a gaping void in proper Jewish instruction. A small amount of help in this area could have a major impact on Jewish life here in the Ukraine, as well as all the former Soviet Republics. Since Kiev is known as one of the largest and most respected Jewish communities, other communities look to this school as a model. The potential for growth is tremendous. The school is an official State school, so the government covers a certain amount of the budget. But the money allotted falls far short of what the school needs, due to the extra services it provides. The school has six buses which pick up children all over Kiev. This is an extra that is not part of the Government budget. In general, bussing is not needed for the secular schools--there are many of these schools which are strategically placed throughout the city. Not only can children walk to school, but in many cases they don't even have to cross the street. The situation has grown even more serious. The Ukrainian Ministry of Education recently decided that all schools must have the necessary repairs done and be up to par for the state inspection this summer. The Ministry has indicated that they will not be providing extra funds for the repairs. It's up to the schools themselves to raise the money. What happens if the repairs are not done in time? Many of those here fear a chillul Hashem: the Ukrainian Government will be unable to understand how the Jewish community could allow their school to be neglected. And repairs are necessary, since hardly anything has been done to upgrade the school buildings since the government allotted them six years ago. If we truly understood what a Torah school would mean to this area, proper support would pour in from every sector of our community. Many Russian Jews become involved in underworld activities after they leave here. Properly educating children in a Torah life would undoubtedly help reverse this trend. There is also the intermarriage rate to be considered. Torah education has proven to be a deterrent to intermarriage. The Jewish French School system, Otzar HaTorah, which has over 4,000 children in 20 schools, has reversed a 85-90% intermarriage rate to a 98% rate of marrying Jewish--nearly a 100% turnaround. A similar program here would no doubt meet with similar success. The children here are extremely bright and motivated. Much of this may be attributed to the terrific struggle for simple material needs that exists in this country. In the former USSR, academic or athletic achievement often helped one receive a better apartment, or various extras. With the official lifting of communism, young Jewish people here must do well in order to get work. Or, if they decide to emigrate, they need the skills to acquire a proper position wherever they decide to go. Many Russians today are going to Germany, where they are given a car, apartment and subsidies to help them start off in their new environment. Once a family moves there, a proper Jewish life becomes all but nonexistent

These are all volunteer unmarried Yeshiva students, ranging in age from 18-22. They raised money to pay their own way to come here. They pour their hearts out to the kids, literally around the clock. A few are fluent in Russian, but most are not. Nevertheless, the language of love and caring needs no words. The counselors sing, dance, daven . . . they give it all that they have, and then some. They come from England, America, Israel, South Africa, Switzerland. They come with one idea in mind--and another when they leave. Witnessing the daily struggle for survival, and how little the campers know--and how much they want to know--will no doubt have a tremendous impact on the lives of these young men. Many young men and women who have come for a short while to the former Soviet Union continue to play major roles in dealing with Russian Jewry. How many young men should pay any price to come here! They would gain a new outlook. They would truly understand what it means to struggle to live as a Jew. Living as we do in western civilization, with most of our needs at our fingertips, unfortunately leads many of us to take what we have for granted. Late last night I learned with one of the directors of the camp, a very personable man who is also very professional. The Russian-Ukrainian educational system--particularly the level of discipline that is imparted--is something to marvel at. The deterioration of morals and respect in Western society stands in stark contrast to the Russian environment. I asked him for a little more information about the structure of the camp. It seems that when the camp was started about 7 or 8 years ago, it was one of the only Jewish camps in the country. It was relatively easy to convince parents to send their children to a Jewish camp, because it was the only Jewish alternative around. Today, however, Reform has moved in. They offer mixed settings--boys and girls together--and little or no commitment: just come to have a good time. And best of all--it's free! The Jewish camp--with its separate boys and girls campuses, davening, learning, kashrus and other halachic rules--now has competition from the other extreme of society. This is where the battle is, here on the Russian front. And the war is truly intense. Reform seems to have unlimited funds. They reassure every parent who's interested that their child will be accepted--they have no problem with "who is a Jew". They are interested in numbers alone, not background or identity. Free camp, free food, and a great time with no restrictions attached--what more can anyone ask for? And so the battle for the soul of our people is fought, each and every day. If only the resources were available, the tide of the battle could be turned. And so it must be asked, why must those who are dedicated to ensuring real Jewish life be forced to stand alone, without proper support from their Jewish brethren? So much money is spent on things which accomplish little, compared to what can be done here with just a fraction of those funds. Five years ago there was much talk and support of the Jewish life here. Since then, however, the talk has died down; the Russian cause seems to have gone out of style. But the danger is still here, and we must act now to prevent a churbon. Our Jewish brethren must be helped. Many might be tempted to comment, why bother helping out here? After all, there really aren't that many Jews. The intermarriage rate is already high, and the interest isn't that great. What's the point? That's how it looks on the outside. But in only my short time here in Kiev, I've discovered that looks can be deceiving. There are 600 students in this school, and every one is legitimately Jewish. Despite the students' lack of knowledge, they are very dedicated and willing to do what it takes to learn. My group comes early in the morning and learns with me throughout the day. This is on top of maintaining a rigorous camp schedule throughout the day and night. Indeed, it's a wonder that the Kiev community has any Jews at all. There is one synagogue here today. Just a short seventy-five years ago, there were one hundred. Jewish life flourished. But between the pogroms and Hitler--which finally culminated with the mass slaughter of over 30,000 Jews one day at a pit called Baba Yar--the community was all but devastated. Nine years ago, the Jewish school was founded. Despite all the problems it had--and there were many, including the iron hand of Communism when it was still at its strength--the school not only persevered, but managed to grow and flourish. Here is a community in this new independent country of Ukraine which, with just a little push, can really come alive again. How can we stand silently by without helping them? The school has o nly 12 pairs of tefillin, few tzitzis, and a limited number of siddurim which are in deplorable condition. There is also a tremendous lack of teaching materials. How can we, who have all of these things in every shape, size or color possible, not do our part to help them? Imagine what would happen if a single school adopted the school here in Kiev, helping raise money for the items that are needed. The potential for growth is unlimited. And there are many more Jewish communities, just waiting for a helping hand to give them that push in the right direction. Once again, I am struck by the differences in our lifestyles. Each day I see how both myself and my children grow and learn about the sheer experience of real life and real mesiras nefesh. In this uncluttered view of the important things in life, it's become clear to me that our lifestyle back in the States is getting out of balance. While the essentials of functioning as a Jew are at our fingertips, with this availability often comes a feeling of complacency, as well as an interest in things which do not necessarily meet with the Torah's approval. We see a great dichotomy. On one side of the coin, there is a great resurgence in traditional Torah Judaism, with many people returning to their heritage. However, there are also those who simply don't appreciate the diamonds and pearls that they have at their feet. Our society is plagued with rebellious children, divorce, Shalom Bayis problems, and a host of other situations. Often, these sad cases result from a feeling of restlessness and dissatisfaction: again, people have it all, yet do not appreciate the gifts which Hashem has given them. Coming to Kiev would undoubtedly revitalize anyone's understanding of life. I write this article, not as a chastisement of our communities in the United States, but rather as a reflection on my own lifestyle. Watching these children, hearing their backgrounds, drives home to me how fortunate I am. Every child here has a story of how they managed to get to this school--from the students, to the teachers, and even the janitor. The children must get up 6 a.m. in many cases in order to arrive on time. And Mommy isn't available to drop you off if you're late! Here in Russia, there is no late. There is also no car. Be on time--with no excuses! The travel time can be up to an hour by bus or trolley. The weather hasn't changed, despite the breakup of the Soviet Union. It gets very cold here, with snow and ice and often intolerable conditions. History tells us that Hitler and his army were stopped by the terrible winter conditions in Russia. But the young students are undeterred. In the past, once Russian Jews became interested in Yiddishkeit, they were usually shipped out of the area. But why sacrifice the purity and lack of materialism that already exists? Help build a community here! If pogroms, Czars, Hitler, assimilation and the like didn't stop this Jewish community until now, surely it's a heavenly sign that life will continue here. It's up to us to help in any way possible.

This past Erev Shabbos we drove two and a half hours to the grave of the Baal HaTanya. Unfortunately, the brick wall surrounding his burial spot was closed, but the feeling and awe was still there. The setting is peaceful, with a beautiful lake nearby. Today, on my last Sunday in the Ukraine, Color War is due to break out. The campers have been shouting about Color War at every meal for the past three weeks. In the meantime, I await the 6:30 a.m. visit from my boys. Color war is finally here! The "Ukrainian Police" arrested some campers on a trumped-up charge, and that was the official beginning. The Red and Blue teams chose up sides and their respective commanders. The blue team's commander is a former Russian boy. Five years ago, when he was fifteen years old, he was in the Lvov camp. At that time he knew virtually nothing. His family ended up moving to New York, and this boy became a regular Yeshiva bochur. His mannerisms, poise, intelligence and maturity are far beyond his 20 years. He learns today in Mir Yerushalayim, and he has come to play a big part in the success of the camp. It was an incredible sight: In the middle of the Ukraine, all these Yeshiva bochurim and close to 200 Russian kids were screaming Color War, dressing up and staging a performance that many in Hollywood would envy. The atmosphere and ruach could change a person's life, be he young or old. The effort is tremendous--but it is beyond price. The results may show up immediately, or it might take 20 years. But the seeds have been planted, and no one can discount them. How will they grow? Only time will give us that answer. True, Color War isn't anything new--nearly all camps have it. But one extra factor has to be added to our teams' efforts. The participants are Russian, and often can't communicate with their counselors (though there are veteran counselors who speak the language well). Not only that, but the resources here are very limited. I was amazed at the originality and the ingenuity that it took to come up with the very impressive costumes, decorations and so on. The way the counselors and the campers worked together, despite knowing each other for only three short weeks--and despite the very real differences in language and culture--was incredibly inspiring. One boy finally opened up to me today. He told me that when he was twelve, his father--then 38 years old--was killed in a car accident, leaving behind his mother and two younger sisters. The boy moved in with his grandmother, who supported both of them on the $25 a month pension she receives. His two younger sisters, who also go to the Jewish school in Kiev, will probably go to Israel as soon as they get a bit older. The school will arrange their trip, housing and whatever they need. Their mother, who is an engineer, receives a salary of $150 per month, but that is only when she works--which is by no means consistent. Yet another indication of the struggle that exists to merely survive here in the Ukraine. But despite all the difficulties, I never heard a single complaint. Instead, I saw smiling young Jewish faces that wanted to know more and more--and the more they got, the more they wanted! The action in today's Color War started fast and furious. I was appointed one of the judges, and it was practically impossible to decide between excellence and excellence on both sides. The Red team, which was Meat, and the Blue team, which was Milk, spent most of the night decorating the dining room. Tonight, on my last night here in camp, each team put on a performance. The Red skit reenacted a dream of a former prisoner in a concentration camp who remembers his martyred family. He dreams of how one of the family had received a piece of meat from the guard, and was about to devour it when the man's father began yelling, "How could you give up your faith for a piece of meat?" The German in the skit came and grabbed the father, who was then tortured and beaten to death. Aside from the preparations and thought that went into this performance, there was also the bittersweet knowledge that these boys are aware of this part of their Jewish past.

Looking back, I continue to be amazed by the dedication of the staff of the Jewish teachers from the school. These men and women did everything for the campers--slept with them, ate with them and often washed their laundry. And you can see the results of this dedication. At the airport I met a family with their 15-year-old son, a former pupil in the Kiev school. He was on my flight to America, on his way to a Yeshiva in New York. The family was obviously not religious, but because of the school there had been a complete turnaround for the entire family. I marvel at how much I was able to accomplish in my short time here. Imagine if those who are really capable in learning would take off but a week from time to time and come to Kiev. The effect would be unimaginable. There are diamonds just lying out in the street, waiting to be picked up. Of course, there is no honor here; no awards, no special dinner. But what you do have is real work and real satisfaction. It doesn't take all that much to change one boy's or girl's life. What's the ingredient? Only the will to do so. The rest will work itself out!

It's almost a quarter to four in the morning. My newly found talmidim came to see me off. These boys may be few in number, but they have turned out to be some of the best and most serious boys in the school. In these few short weeks together we learned nearly everything under the sun: Chumash, Gemara, Mishna, Halacha, Mussar. But as important was the bond we formed with each other. These boys asked for nothing except my friendship and knowledge. I can only reiterate my call to those who have the desire to participate in this great work. One should do so even selfishly, for the sake of his own personal growth and that of his family. Perhaps then we ourselves, and our children, will look less to the side in search of satisfaction, and instead steer straight ahead, confident and secure in our Torah lifestyle.

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