Wednesday afternoon, July 27, looked like any other hot and humid summer afternoon in Lakewood, New Jersey — until the cars started arriving. Pulling onto Sixth Street one after another, their out-of-state license plates were an instant give-away. It became obvious that, after a long hiatus, Harav and Rebbetzin Mattisyahu Salomon, shlita, the Mashgiach of Bais Medrash Govoha, were once again opening their home.
Setting aside any personal inconvenience, the Mashgiach and the Rebbetzin hosted a parlor meeting for an institution that is very close to the Mashgiach’s heart, the Vaad L’Hatzolas Nidchei Yisroel.
Vaad L’Hatzolas Nidchei Yisroel is a 35-year-old institution that started off as a lifeline to the original clandestine refuseniks and to the fledgling Jewish awakening in the Soviet Union. Over the years it evolved into an organization that supports and maintains Jewish communities in the former Soviet Union.
Having built and supported schools in St. Petersburg, and Kishinev, the Vaad currently maintains schools and the entire Jewish infrastructure in Baku, Azerbaijan and in Tbilisi, Georgia. Jewish life and Jewish identity would have all but disappeared from these two cities — which have a combined population of over 100,000 Jews — were it not for the Vaad L’Hatzolas Nidchei Yisroel.
As has become a tradition, prior to the beginning of the school, the Vaad hosts a fundraising event to help fund its $800,000/year budget. This year, the Vaad was fortunate that it’s very own Nasi, Rav Mattisyahu Salomon, agreed to host the event. Having led several Vaad missions to the former Soviet Union, Rav Mattisyahu was uniquely able to convey the importance and urgency of helping the Vaad.
The purpose of the parlor meeting was to strengthen good friends of the Vaad and to provide a financial shot in the arm prior to the beginning of the school year. Baruch Hashem, it succeeded on both fronts.
The parlor meeting was well attended. It was chaired by Mr. Ephraim Hasenfeld who opened the evening by comparing the event to the “seudah ketanah” that Hashem makes with Klal Yisrael on Shemini Atzeres. “Your departure is hard on me,” Hashem cries, hence the Yom Tov of Shemini Atzeres.
So too, the Mashgiach exhorted the gathered audience, “My separation from the Vaad is difficult to bear. Let’s spend another evening together for this very unique institution.”
Mr. Moshe Mendlowitz, a long-time Vaad member who is in daily contact with the “shluchim” in the field, gave a firsthand report of the Vaad’s activities in Baku and Tbilisi and discussed in detail the financial commitment that is required of the Vaad.
The attendees were so moved by the Mashgiach and the ensuing video presentation, that the total commitments were actually doubled, in addition to the many commitments that were solicited prior to the event.
One of the main features of the Vaad is the annual trip to its communities. Usually led by a notable Gadol, the trip lasts about a week, but the impressions and memories last a lifetime. While its intended purpose is to benefit the communities abroad, the ultimate beneficiaries are the travelers. It is an informative, emotional, fulfilling and gratifying trip that one will never forget.
Anyone interested in participating in the annual trip or who wishes to donate to the Vaad should please call 845-244-8000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.