Amidst much fanfare The Jewish community of Dnipro ( Yekatrinoslav) gathered together today to celebrate the reopening of one of its favorite Moisdos, it’s orphanage for boys. The orphanage is situated in the historic building of the shul of the Rebbe’s father Reb Levik.
In 1939 Reb Levik was arrested by the communist regime for refusing to play along with the communists plans for the Jews. After his arrest, the Shul was confiscated and turned into apartments and later an office building.
In 1995, due to the tireless efforts of Head Shliach and Chief Rabbi of Dnipro, Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki , the city council recognized the historic importance of this building and returned it to the Jewish Community. It was immediately apparent to Rabbi Kaminezki what he needed to do with this newly returned building.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, so too did the social and economic structure of the people living in the newly independent Ukraine. Rabbi Kaminezki was flooded with pleas for help from children living in distress. The most common story was children suffering in families stricken with poverty, alcoholism and neglect. Social Services were completely ineffective and were limited to a few orphanages that were notoriously abusive. Children who were sent to these orphanages would try to escape because a homeless life on the streets was preferable to the abuse suffered in the orphanages.
In order to help these children, Rabbi Kaminezki teamed up with Rabbi Yerachmiel Benjaminson from Tzivos Hashem in NY and the “Esther and William Benenson home for boys” was born. This built on the ongoing partnership between Tzivos Hashem and Chabad of Dnipro. The partnership started in 1993 when Tzivos Hashem opened its Eastern European headquarters in Dnipro run by Rapahel Rutman and Yossi Glick. A few years later a second orphanage was opened, this one for girls.
After over 20 years of use and saving hundreds of children the home temporarily relocated to allow for a much needed renovation. Over the years the building had become run down in direct contrast to the modernization of the surrounding area in the city Center.
With the help of local sponsors the building was completely renovated into a more comfortable and modern home for the children.
Local businessman and president of the “Solidarity” International charitable fund, Alexander Petrovvsky teamed up with community board member Alexander Turchin to finance this great undertaking. In recognition of their efforts, the honor of cutting the ceremonial ribbon was awarded to Mr. and Mrs. Petrovsky and Mr. Turchin.
After a heartwarming rendition of Keili Atto by the “Goldener Kinderlach” children’s choir, the guests joined the children inside.
The honor of unveiling the plaque commemorating this auspicious day was given to Mr Alexander Koganovski and Mr. Yaakov Shapiro together with the Director of Tzivos Hashem in Eastern Europe, Rabbi Yossi Glick. Mr Koganovski sponsored the original reconstruction in 1995 and Mr. Yaakov Shapiro designed the current renovations.
After a tour of the newly renovated and refurnished building everyone joined together for a beautiful catered meal. During the meal Rabbi Kaminezki gave an emotional speech about the historical significance of this day.
He spoke of how across the street from the shul where we are now was the apartment of Reb Levik where the Rebbe spent his childhood and teen years. On this very street, 90 years ago, Reb Levik and his wife Rebbetzin Chana joined with Chassidim for a bittersweet celebration in honor of the wedding of their son the Rebbe and Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka .
Chassidim told how there were tears of joy for the momentous occasion mixed with tears of sadness as they could not physically be with the Rebbe for his wedding in Warsaw Poland. He continued, 90 years later, we see how “Yad hachasiddim al hoelyoino” the anti-religious communist have been replaces by a local government that protects and supports the Jewish Community.
Chassidim no longer have to hide their activities. There is no better proof of this victory, than seeing that in this city that was so dear to the Rebbe on the street that the Rebbe said was “His” Jewish orphans now flourish physically and spiritually.