When I was a young boy growing up in New England our family had a custom of filling Eliyahu’s cup at the Seder in the hope that Jews from Russia would one day be free. As an adult I had the privilege of serving as the National Director of Operation Exodus- an international program which rescued Jews from the Soviet Union and helped to resettle them in Israel and other free western communities. When I shared this recently with M.P. a long-time and generous donor to Lev Lalev, he emailed me the following:
Yes, I’m from the Soviet Union. I grew up in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. When I was 26, we moved to Minsk, the capital of Belarus. There, I heard many insults about my Jewish heritage. Oblivious to the outside world we did not realize we were living in a huge jail. For 75 years of communist rule we were cut off from our Jewish brothers and sisters.
In 1992 we were able to leave Russia. Our arrival to the new brave world was painful. We came with very little English, no marketable skills, and no understanding how modern society functions, and with just $84 in our possession. Also, we had no idea of the beauty of Judaism as the Russians promoted it as decadent and disgusting. In Russia those who tried to learn Hebrew on smuggled Jewish books in, would end up in jail. The result was the total destruction of Jewish communal and cultural life.
Here in America, we were able to find ourselves. Now I’m a computer engineer, working for a large successful company. I am a practicing and observant Jew and attend the Sephardic shul in suburban Dallas. When I landed on my feet and learned about Tzedakah, I began to contribute small amounts to charity. While I cannot change the world, I wanted to make a world of difference for orphaned girls in Israel. I found out about Lev Lalev and have been donating ever since ( Michael has given 242 gifts- at least one or two gifts a month!)
Freedom is not free. It requires prayers, patience, and a support system. Human dignity is a global value- whether we are speaking about Jews who lived behind the iron curtain or young Israeli orphaned and disadvantaged girls who seek and need help. What you do provides these girls with hope when no one else cares. You are their family- what comes from your heart enters theirs.