The passengers on last Sunday’s Dnipropetrovsk – Odessa train were concerned. Four extra cars were added to the already overfull train, to accommodate another two hundred and fifty people from the Jewish community of Dnipropetrovsk. Men with long beards, women and children and lots of luggage piled on. A serious fear was felt in the air, that the Jewish community was escaping the city and moving down south! Only when it was explained that the cheerful group was headed to the resort town, “Zatoka” for a 10-day vacation, did the tumult subside…
The family recreation camp “Unity” was organized thanks to the generous contribution of Mr. Natan Zolotarevsky and his colleagues at the initiative of Chief Rabbi of Dnepropetrovsk Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki and community leader Mr. Zvi Hirsch (Gennady) Bogolyubov. The General Director of the Community Zelig Brez and his wife Leah, made sure all the vacationers were well taken care of, worrying about their every convenience, professionally and efficiently.
The Holiday camp “Unity” is located in “Zatoka” – 40 kilometers south of the city of Odessa, on the shores of the Black Sea, which is the most prestigious place in Ukraine today, without the Crimea.
When the idea of a vacation for families, came up a month ago it sounded like a dream. To evacuate an entire holiday village resort during the busiest period of the year for the Jewish community for ten days seemed impossible! Zelig points out that the name of the village “Karolinka” probably helped it happen, because it’s similar to the nickname the local authorities called Hasidim during the time of the Alter Rebbe – “Karoliners”, as seen in documents from the period of his incarceration in St. Petersburg.
“One big family. Unity” – the formation and consolidation of the community is the secret of our success,” notes Zelig.
The Glatt Kosher vacation includes a top-class international chef brought in especially, a rich holiday program, a Mikveh, Minyanim for prayers, Shofar blowing, Farbrengens with Mashpi’im, entertainment evenings, classes for men and women throughout the day, sports and recreation, swimming and more.
Organizing a program like this is a very complex task.
There are so many things to arrange – a kosher kitchen, a separate beach, separate pool, and finding a solution for people of all ages to be able to relax and revitalize themselves physically and spiritually in preparation for their return to routine and for the upcoming new year.
The place looks like a Jewish shtetl. Mothers in sheitles walking with strollers, kids with yarmulkes and tzitzis, girls modestly dressed, the men in suits and hats… In the background Hasidic tunes are played over the loudspeaker throughout the camp, “Toda lecha,” “Shluchei Adoneinu to bring Moshiach…”
Yesterday the camp had an unexpected visitor – a Jew who heard the sound of the Shofar while he was swimming at the beach nearby and came to check it out. “It shocked me when I heard it, it reminded me of my grandfather.”
There are shluchim here from Israel, Europe and the US, along with those from Dnepropetrovsk, accompanied by families who are now Shomrei Shabbos and Kashrus thanks to their influence. Over two hundred and fifty people, who invest time and energy during the year working with Jews in the largest Jewish community in Ukraine.
“Fantasy” is the most appropriate word to describe what’s going on here. Rabbi Moshe Furlender’s teaching Inyanei Ge’ulah u’Moshiach and Halacha; people are sitting and discussing current affairs, or studying together “Dvar Malchus”; while the women are busy listening to lessons from the shluchos Mrs. Daliah Kurtzweil and Mrs. Devorah Furlender discussing the weekly Torah portion, Jewish outlook and psychology. Mrs. Ruth Lubarsky is teaching recreational sports lessons while the girls are busy with arts and crafts and the boys are in the pool.
What are the vacationers saying?
“This is an amazing combination of physical recreation and spiritual rejuvenation. People can rest and listen to meaningful content.”
“Perfect comfort, meets all the requests, fun for kids and parents.”
“Leah Brez invests her time and energy to allow all vacationers a chance to recuperate, rest and return to their shlichus with new strength.”
“The children are treated well, each according to his/her needs.”
“This is a great boon to enable mothers to rest, contributes greatly to Sholom Bayis.”
“Togetherness” among us and getting to know the members of the community outside our normal busy everyday lives.”
Here we have real unity, evident in finding unity and uniqueness of each one in his/her self, as was explained and demonstrated at the opening session.
With freshly-squeezed juice, a swim at the pool, lunch, and the beach, Dnipropetrovsk’s shluchim boost themselves up with renewed strength to successfully continue their mission.
As I am writing this description, it’s already past midnight. 0:48 to be exact. A moment ago I left the dancing by the lake, with the wonderful performance of Rabbi Menachem Kurtzweil, who stirred the audience with Hasidic songs accompanied by his guitar.
Another week lies ahead – packed with amazing experiences and lots of relaxation. A rumor has reached my ears about a music concert with a Hasidic star singer coming in from the Holy Land. The Joy and energy that will break out here on the beach next week, “A stranger would not understand …”