Hundreds had the chance to "become acquainted with the traditions of our fathers."
Hundreds of immigrants from the Former Soviet Union participated this week in a most unusual "mock Shabbos" event arranged for them by Yad L'Achim, in conjunction with an organization dedicated to helping Holocaust survivors.
The "mock Shabbos" event, held in Ashdod on a week day, featured the lighting of Shabbos candles, Kiddush over wine, Hamotzi over two challos, and a festive meal that included singing. The crowd was mesmerized by practices they had never been exposed to.
"After all we went through in the Soviet Union, after decades of communism where they sought to eliminate any trace of our Jewishness, it was so meaningful to get a taste of an authentic Jewish Shabbos," said one participant.
Added another: "Many of us were happy to become acquainted with the traditions of our fathers from up close. Even if we don't observe all the commandments, at least we have the chance to know more about them."
Many were so moved by the event that they committed to lighting Shabbos candles every week in their homes.
Vladimir Listengarten,the chairman of the organization assisting Holocaust survivors, thanked all of those who participated on behalf of Yad L'Achim and expressed the hope that the two organizations would cooperate in future ventures.
The event created a stir among the Russian-immigrant population and was given prominent coverage by the Russian-language media. One popular immigrant newspaper ran a very favorable report.
Yad L'Achim officials said the event was in keeping with the legacy of the organization's founding chairman, Harav Hagaon Shalom Dov Lifschitz, zt"l, that "we must not give up on any Jew."
"The Russian immigrant population, which many gave up on, is thirsty for knowledge," said one official. "We will continue to hold such events in order to bring them closer to their Father in Heaven. These words take on added meaning when we consider that we're talking about Holocaust survivors."