Dear COLlive staff,
It is very unfortunate what happened this week at the Aliya Institute in Crown Heights. Not only because of the harmful items that the police found hidden there, but also the image it portrayed which is not what Aliya is about.
On one late night, I get a call from its founder and director Rabbi Moshe Feiglin. A call from Moshe Feiglin is hardly ever a call for Moshe Feiglin. Ever since he opened the center for youth at-risk, his time and resources have been dedicated to helping others.
On this particular instance, he told of a youngster arrested after his own mother called the police on him and is now sitting downtown in NYPD’s Central Booking Office. So at midnight, I went down to help organize a lawyer and bail him out and then negotiate with the mother (it’s an ongoing project until today…)
“Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world,” our sages said. Let me tell you, Moshe Feiglin saved many worlds. That boy was just one single example of the kind of selfless work Moshe does on a daily basis and without fanfare.
Aliya is the Chabad House for those who the community forgot (or would like to forget). Aliya is the home for those who are not welcome in theirs anymore. Day or night, Aliya is there for them. There is even an Aliyah Girls project run by Chaviva and Meir New.
Some of the stories do not have happy beginnings, although many, if not most, do end happily. A few go back to yeshiva. Most get married and starting building a life and successful businesses. I know of a couple that started out in Aliyah and had many challenges, which thank G-d and with Rabbi Feiglin’s assistance, they were able to overcome. They are married today and have children.
The darkest of human problems are thrown at the doorstep of Aliya and it is Moshe and the staff that raise the people up high. Moshe turns no one away and seeks out help for them too. He reminds them that they were created in G-d’s image and this world will not be complete without them.
Rabbi Feiglin once called an Aliya member to report that he found him a job opportunity. It was a literally a life-saver as the youngster said that he was “about to jump in front of a train” on that day. Fast forward to 5 years later, this person is still working at this same job and most importantly, he’s alive and well.
Crown Heights, and indeed the frum Jewish community in Brooklyn, truly owes Aliya a big hakaras hatov for the excellent work they are doing and which nobody else is doing in such a fashion.
I once got a call from a woman in Flatbush (she helps my activities to support Shleimus Haaretz). She was looking for her teenage son and all she knew is that he was hanging out with a Mendy and a Zalmy. I didn’t know who she was referring to, but guess who did and was helping out the boy – Moshe Feiglin.
Once a month or so, Moshe takes the boys away for the weekend. The boys go skiing, hiking, canoeing, paintball shooting and camping. There is one condition for participation: The boys park their cell phones and get them back after havdalah. And its impact is astounding.
This past Rosh Hashana, Moshe honored a young man with opening the Aron Kodesh. The youngster was reluctant and quietly told Moshe that he wasn’t observing the yomtov. Moshe insisted nevertheless. After yomtov, he confided that when he opened the Aaron he had his cell phone in his pocket which made him feel guilty.
At that moment, the youngster vowed to keep the rest of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur as well. Later that afternoon, he met up with friends who wanted to take a drive. He told them he can’t drive because it’s Rosh Hashanah and so the entire group walked together instead of driving.
This is just a glimpse into what Aliya does. The boys come on their own and know they will be given an understanding ear, an open heart, a warm meal, some inspiration and feeling of purpose.
Of course, as in any shul or institution, you always have a few really difficult cases, as happened earlier this week. But hey, this is a Chabad House where the “magnet” is always on. For every incident reported in the media about Aliya there’s dozens of others that were successfully dealt with. Please G-d, this story will have a happy ending too. Just you watch!
All the very best,
P.S. I do not work for Moshe or Aliyah, but I invite you too to join the Aliyah fan club. To make a donation to support their work, visit http://AliyaInstitute.com/.