For 25 Shluchim families, over 150 people, for a full week, it was a taste of Gan Eden. They came from all over Ukraine: Dnipro, Kiev, Chernigov, Poltava, Kremenchuk, Kamenskoi, and Kharkov.
To the English speaking ear, these names sound strange, or familiar from stories of chasidim years past, but to the shluchim living there, it’s life. Shluchim in Ukraine have the unique zchus to reach out to every Jew in the country where the Rebbe grew up and where chassidus thrived for many years. Yet shlichus in a developing country, still emerging from communist influence, has its challenges; among them loneliness, lack of basic infrastructure, lack of proper medical care, and more.
The shluchim of Ukraine were treated to a 7-day retreat, organized by Rabbi Yisroel and Aliza Silberstein. It was held on beautiful grounds outside Dnipro, surrounded by a pine forest, making it a real oasis with delicious, fresh air. Amenities included a pool, a river with a private beach, basketball court, ping-pong, a soccer field, and a playground. Fountains and ponds throughout the grounds made them picture perfect.
The meals were extravagant and delicious, with a smorgasbord of different options, including a salad bar and different themed meals such as shwarma, burger bar, BBQ, and Italian themed foods.
The precious yaldei hashluchim experienced a week of pure joy. This included a camp led by older shluchim children, who devoted their time with passion and understanding. The day was filled with davening, crafts, and special activities like a safrus workshop. A babysitting center was provided to give the shluchos much needed time to relax and recharge. The children enjoyed such treats as a circus, petting zoo, and foam show.
It was a real nachas to watch children of all ages running around on the vast grounds, driving bicycles and toy cars yelling and laughing together.
“Mommy,” one little boy told his mother, “I feel like I am in Israel. Everywhere I go I have friends to play with.”
The adults were treated to shiurim for men and for women. Beautiful farbrengens, like water on parched throats, were greatly enjoyed by the shluchim who don’t often see others like them.
5 new mikva projects were funded by a generous guest from the Mikva Foundation.
On Motzei Shabbos, after havdalah, all gathered for a special fire show. This was followed by a beautiful barbecue Melava Malka, accompanied by a guitar sing-along with Rabbi Menachem Kurtzvil with marshmallows for the kids and the young at heart.
The retreat was designed to pamper the shluchim and give them a real vacation. And pampered they were! Before Shabbos, each shlucha received a manicure and a gift of chocolate and a rose. Each family was gifted a family photo shoot, a special treat when family members are usually spread throughout the world.
The retreat closed with a gala banquet and a live mega concert of Jewish music and niggunim, followed by a grand fireworks show.
The highlight and the culmination of the retreat was the surprise announcement of a free shaitel for every shlucha, sponsored by Chamah International and the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine.
Says Rabbi Silberstein, “Baruch Hashem the retreat was a tremendous success. Shluchim had the opportunity to relax and recharge, for some, it was the first time that they were able to get away with the entire family. I would like to personally give a big thank you to Rabbi and Mrs. Kaminetzkii for their tremendous and constant support and personal care for the shluchim – they went way beyond and above for this retreat. Thank you to the hardworking staff of Chamah International for seeing this retreat from planning stages until the end. I’d like to use this opportunity to thank Eduard Azar and the other generous donors who made this phenomenal retreat possible.”
Shluchim are already rushing to reserve places for next year. To meet the demand, if chas veshalom we are still in golus, plans are already underway for two sessions next year.