Friends of Refugees of Eastern
Europe (FREE) was founded in 1969 by the Lubavitcher Rebbe,
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson. It was
led by a group of young ex-Soviet “partisans” to
cater to the broad range of needs of Jewish refugees from the
Former Soviet Union. FREE has helped tens of thousands of these
Jews, who often arrived in the U.S. with nothing but the clothes
on their back, and precious little else.
FREE has continued to reach out to these Jews, feeding their
bodies and nourishing their souls through housing, rent, medical
and employment assistance, and education in Torah and Mitzvot.
Serving as the first such Organization in the United States,
FREE has become America’s largest Jewish organization
serving Russian immigrants with their spiritual and material
Governments fall, the map is rearranged, but Friends of Refugees
of Eastern Europe never stops responding to the call of the
Jewish soul. Indeed, Jewish continuity is not an item on our
agenda. It is our agenda.
After the First World War and the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution,
Eastern European Jewish communities plunged into a chaotic and
frightening era. There was a major disruption in the traditional
Torah educational system. Religious education was banned by
communist law, the practice of Judaism was systematically blocked,
and those Jews who continued to observe Torah suffered severe
consequences. Even with great courage, observance of the commandments
such as Shabbat, kashrut and circumcision became virtually impossible
for the traditional Jewish masses.
Three decades is not much time in the context of Jewish history.
Yet during the three short decades of FREE's existence, a heroic
effort has taken place to revitalize what the Communists destroyed.
Starting from a rented room and a handful of dedicated volunteers,
FREE has grown quickly, and continues to grow, in order to handle
the increasing influx of Russian Jews coming to America. Over
the years, continually adopting one project after another, FREE
services have expanded to help all aspects of the lives of the
• The FREE Social & Humanitarian
Services Division was established,
sending volunteers to visit refugees and assess their material
needs. Volunteers assisted refugees in finding apartments, arranging
English classes, obtaining employment, and providing them with
basic necessities such as furniture and clothing.
• The Adult Education Division,
also formed at this time, providing regular classes in basic
Judaism for refugees.
FREE established the first Jewish-Russian High School in
the United States on 711 Eastern Parkway, across the street from the Lubavitch World Headquarters.
Over 2500 students have been enrolled in FREE High School to date.
- In the Media
- F.R.E.E. Worldwide
- Historic Photos
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