FREE’s Alumni’s Unite
An Evening of Alumni Reunion & Friendship
Recent graduates and alumni gather for a group photo with Rabbi Mendel Okunov
Click here to see a photo gallery of the event
On a Sunday afternoon in March of 2004 hundreds of FREE alumni
and friends gathered to celebrate the organization’s
35th anniversary. The event was held in the balloon-decorated
ballroom of the United Lubavitcher Yeshivah on Ocean Parkway.
The festive occasion featured an inviting smorgasbord decked
with delicious hot foods, a salad bar, a special desert and
a Viennese table with a special l’chaim bar.
After greetings and chatting, the crowd was invited in
by the master of ceremonies Mr. Rolan Shnayder, a FREE alumnus.
He reminded everyone of the party’s purpose: to celebrate
FREE’s 35th anniversary. At that point, my first encounter
with FREE flashed in my mind. It was when I turned 11 and
started studying in this very same building. I had emigrated
from Russia with my family earlier and settled in Brooklyn
not too far from the FREE Headquarters in Crown Heights.
FREE’s bus would pick me up with my friends near
my home and bring me to school where I studied about my heritage.
FREE was very concerned about our progress, both in our
religious knowledge and understanding and in our health and
physical activity. FREE arranged for us, the youth, special
Shabbatons so that we could experience the rich meaning of
a Shabbat. Then, on winter Saturday nights, my friends and
I would prepare for a full-day ski trip in Hunter Mountain
in the Catskills.
These are wonderful memories of my boyhood. I can recall
the outstanding, fun programs we experienced, thanks to FREE,
whether it was studying in a Jewish day school, going to
a summer camp or having a good time with friends. With the
continued dedication of FREE officers, its staff and creative
programs, I am confidant that tomorrow’s children will
remain Jewish and not stray into assimilation and intermarriage.
Maestro Pevzner and Professor Branover Back to the party,
the guests enjoyed listening to Russian pianist Boris Pevzner
and his classical Jewish music. Mr. Pevzner played a large
part of the evening until the final moments when the people
sprung in a Chassidic dance. Lots of the guests joined in
and it went on for a while joyously.
Then Rolan Shnayder, the M.C., introduced Professor Herman
Branover, the noted author and translator, deliver the keynote
address. Dr. Branover, a professor in science at Bar Ilan
University in Ramat Gan, spoke about the special occasion
He focused on the privileges we are enjoying today, among
them the freedom to exercise our religion without any fear
of Communist terror breathing down our necks. The professor
took many of us back to the time we arrived to this country
as children, when we, as refugees or immigrants, were sent
by our parents to the FREE yeshiva or its summer camp. Dr.
Branover urged us to help give our children the same opportunities
that we got and to save them from enticements of the modern
age that so often leads to assimilation and intermarriage.
Dr. Branover touched on the downfall of Communism and the
great courage and foresight the Lubavitcher Rebbe had in
predicting Communism’s end in Eastern Europe and eventual
exodus of all of us from that part of the world.
Following Professor Branover, we heard the stories of other
alumni. A number expressed their gratitude to FREE for how
far they’ve come. Alumnus Gregory Raykher, who has
been acquainted with FREE’s services since 1980, said
that Russian Jews had an obligation to see to it that FREE
continues its great work in settling Russian families and
educating Russian children.
For more information, or to stay informed about upcoming
Alumni reunions and special events, please contact the FREE
Alumni Association at 718-467-0860 Ext. 123, or Email: Alumni@RussianJewry.org
Back to Top