«Jewish Observer»
January 2002
5762 Tevet

Main page To print

It was snowing the whole day and half night. The snow covered the old Jewish cemetery enrolling with a funny interwoven ornament into clear-cut outline of Hebrew letters. The snow flew over the house from white brick, its big windows and descended upon the flat roof ... and on the shoulders of a youth in a hassid dress. Such houses and figures with payots and by all means kippahs are common to see, say, in Jerusalem, somewhere in the narrow streets of the "Mea-Shearim" quarter. But it was snowing not in Israel but in Ukraine, in the town called Uman. Here, in the center of Ukraine, nobody is surprised now to see signs in Hebrew and exotic dresses of pilgrims coming to Uman from all over the world. It is this place that Rabbi Nakhman from Bratslav chose for his last shelter on the earth. Rabbi Nakhman is known to be a righteous man and a wise man, creator of the whole trend in Hassidism, one of the famous teachers of Jewish people, not only in his generation.

... There is a granite stone on his grave, eternal candle, synagogue, amazingly beautiful aron-akodesh (carved container for Torah scrolls) and books, among which are the works of this righteous man. Jews from Israel, America, Argentina and other countries come to pray at Rabbi Nakhman's grave.

The tradition says that at this place not only the prayer but also the learning of Jewish wisdom acquire special properties ... So, it was not at random that it was Uman that became the venue of a specific seminar held under the sign of "Or Sameah". The seminar was called "Shorashim veyesodot" which means "Roots and fundamentals". It was the first seminar not only in the history of "Or Sameah" school but, without exaggeration, in the whole history of reviving Jewish life in Odessa.

- The idea of holding such seminar came from school director Mark Dreyerman - says Shlomo Baksht, Chief Rabbi of Odessa and oblast. Our school is 7 years old. Children, even very small ones, know much about Jewish tradition. They come home and ask questions. Unfortunately, the parents can't answer their questions because they don't know about it. Before the new school year Mark Grogorevich gathered the parents and said that the teacher would now work not only with pupils but with their parents as well.

- It is difficult, practically impossible, to cover all issues included in our program, - said in his opening speech the director of "Or Sameah" school Mark Dreyerman.

- Our key objective is mentioned in the name itself. "Roots and Fundamentals" is our return to the roots and fundamentals of Jewish life, of Jewish upbringing and of Jewish outlook on the world.

The road to the return may be different for different people. There are as many roads as people are. For Rabbi Shimon Grilyus the road began in Perm camps. For Rabbi Levi Gdalevich from Jerusalem it began in the Moscow University classroom:

- I remember one episode. Some students with names ending in ch (Gdalevich, Rabinovich, Abramovich) were sitting together at the seminar in the old Slavic language. The teacher was a good, kind woman. But it was boring. What do students do when it is boring? Naturally, they began talking. The teacher got tired of us and bumping her fist upon the table she shouted: "Gdalevich, why don't you want to study the language of your ancestors?" I thought then - really, why ...

... Besides hard work those were the days of common meals with adults and children together, and with guests and teachers saying wise words and singing songs. The Chief Rabbi of Ukraine Yaakov Dov Bleich attended the seminar. There was also the joint meeting of Saturday and its seeing-off. For many participants it was for the first time. It was for the first time that they had Saturday meal together. For the first time they listened instructive stories about Saturday, as well as about other things.

To listen, think and learn is what the return to the roots and fundamentals, to the tradition of our people begins from. This is the return to the people's wisdom that passes from one generation to the other for many thousand years already. It is the return to oneself ...


«Jewish Observer» - obozrevatel@jewukr.org
© 2001 Jewish Confederation of Ukraine - www.jewukr.org