20 Feb A New Year In A New Homeland
During the seven decades of the Soviet regime, the Jewish community of the FSU experienced severe identity loss. Today, Russian-speaking Jews have unique needs when it comes to Jewish educational. To help these Jews, as well as Jews from all over the world, feel a connection to their heritage and Israel, The Jewish Agency for Israel runs programs for all age groups.
At a Rosh Hashanah party in Beersheva’s Yeelim Absorption Center for New Immigrants, 100 participants gathered, including both olim and Masa participants from the former Soviet Union. They were studying Hebrew at Yeelim, and a nearby arts institute.
After a short explanation about the Jewish New Year (all replete with Russian interpretation), the staffer explained the symbolism of the shofar and blew it to great applause – some of the participants in the room had never heard the sound before.
“The students here today come from 35 countries and speak 14 languages,” said the Director of the Absorption Center. “I’m always amazed by you young people who leave your studies, your jobs, your home, your language to make Aliyah. I’m proud of Israel for being a country that absorbs people from all over the world. In the upcoming month, you’ll have a lot of vacation for three important Jewish holidays: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. Take the opportunity to travel and notice the ways you can feel the holidays here, in ways you can’t feel Jewish holidays outside Israel. All of Israel will be celebrating with you.”
“Israel is a strong country. We are strong militarily. We are strong economically. We are strong with the way we take care of our citizens. This summer, some of you experienced rockets. They cannot overcome us. We are unified and strong, and Aliyah is a blessing to this country. It strengthens us. Many of the soldiers who fought in Gaza are immigrants. We are strong and we are not afraid. I will share with you a saying that has been true during every wave of immigration to Israel: me’oleh l’oleh, kochenu oleh – with each immigrant who comes, our strength grows. Have a good year, a fruitful year, a year of peace, and we wish you success in your studies.”