Hakhel Newsletter: April 2022

Dear Hakhel Communities,

We wish you all, your families, and your communities, a Chag Pesach Sameach!

Passover is the holiday of freedom. We tend to think of ourselves as free people living in free societies, at least most of us. And yet, global events which are totally beyond our control have direct and intimate impact on our lives: the Covid pandemic, the war in Ukraine, Climate Change and more. How are we to maintain our own freedom, and the freedom of those around us, with so many constraints imposed on us? 

Well, building strong and resilient communities is obviously one step in the right direction. This Passover, we invite all of us in the Hakhel network to think: In what ways can we utilize our communities to narrow uncertainty and broaden autonomous choice?

We wanted to share with you a text written by Nir Geva, Machon Kehilot – Hakhel Europe, which relates to the story of immigration, refugees, and the journey in the story of the Exodus, and tells it through the challenges of today’s world and the hope for better days.

And you shall tell your son and your daughter…

That sometimes people

Take the wandering stick in their hand,

And leave their country and homeland,

And go on their way across the sea.

Some follow love,

Or seek an opportunity.

Others look for a better life,

Or flee from hardship or trouble.

And you shall tell your son and your daughter…

That often the journey is not at all short,

And the road is exhausting and goes on for

Years, in the wilderness…

And those who keep on walking

Carry in their belongings

Flavors and songs, childhood sceneries,

Pieces of their heritage and sweet memories.

And with some luck in the Diaspora,

They find or form a community,

Renew their days as of old and anew,

Because being alone is tough, and together – wonderful.

At Leil Haseder, when we all sit together,

The past merges with all that is now,

And it’s the time to tell your daughters and your sons

Where you have come from and what is your story,

And how your family’s journey is woven

In the chronicles of an ancient and magnificent People,

Who fled Egypt, chose freedom,

And forty years wandered in the wilderness.

So what makes this night different?!

(Ma nishtanah halaylah hazeh?!)

A revival production of the very same play,

And this time with worries pounding in our chests.

Around the world we hope and pray,

For peace and harmony to prevail,

For nations to beat their swords into plowshares,

For refugees to return to their homes,

For immigrants to find rest and comfort,

Everywhere they strike roots,

That instead of wars, love will expand,

And for the next year in the Good Land!

Hakhel May Israel Trip and Summit

We are so excited to see many of you at the Hakhel May Israel Trip and Summit! There are numerous opportunities for you to step up as a leader and share your talents during the Summit. If any of the below is something you are eager to share, please reach out to Deborah Fishman at deborah.fishman@hazon.org.

  • A talent or act of any sort for Hakhel’s Communities Got Talent
  • Leading us in Yoga/ Morning Meditation
  • Leading a Kabbalat Shabbat/Shabbat morning prayer service

Or if there is some other way you would like to contribute, please be in touch about that as well! Thank you and see you soon.

Our Efforts in Ukraine

Passover is the time of our freedom.

Hakhel has done so much over the last two months to help so many people reach freedom and safety. Sarit Cohen, Hakhel’s Administrative Director, who was there for them, wanted to share just one personal story, as told to her by Alina Bitel. 

My first adopted family were Nadiia and Serhii. I met them checking them into the refugee hotel, fresh after crossing the border. When I asked where they’re from- Nadiia was eager to share the story, but Serhii cut her off saying “nobody cares”. I promised Nadiia that once they settled and had lunch – I will be waiting for her and she can tell me everything.

She sought me out after lunch and we sat down to talk. Nadiia is a Holocaust survivor and a well-known journalist who was very excited about their new home. They saved for years to buy it, and planned to spend their post-retirement in it, in the beautiful Irpen suburb of Kyiv.

They didn’t want to leave their home until the very last minute. Even when there was no water, gas or electricity. After two weeks Serhii saw the last bus leaving the city and a decision to leave was made in seconds. They walked out of their dream retirement home in sweatpants, flannel shirts and with a bag of blood pressure medication. A day later neighbors sent a picture of a rocket hitting the house next door. The fire spread and Nadiia and Serhii’s home was burnt to the ground.

They wanted to go to Israel, but since they got their citizenship there years ago, but didn’t stay, they were not eligible for anything: not the airline ticket, nor housing upon arrival.

So here they were, their home and all of their belongings burnt to the ground, with no support, wandering.

And here the magic of Jewish community and connections came into play. Within 48 hours an Israeli friend in Budapest found a sponsor for their ticket, a fellow volunteer I met in Budapest 4 days earlier found a hotel for them, and even a taxi to get them to the hotel in Israel. In parallel, a very considerate immigration officer spent 3 hours (!) hours with them at the airport while I was on the phone making all the arrangements from Budapest.

They have already arrived safely in Israel, and starting a new life there, at the age of 81

Photos by Maya Oshri Meshel

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