Social & Humanitarian Services

From their first moments: Meeting immigrants at the airport.

Providing friendship and assistance is central to the mission of Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe (F.R.E.E.). Many social service agencies cannot relate to the unique cultural and linguistic barriers that exist for newly arrived Russian Jewish immigrants.

FREE is run by Jews who were born under the former Soviet Union. FREE’s leadership has dedicated itself to assisting their compatriots succeed in American society while at the same time strengthening Jewish identity in order to prevent the pitfalls of assimilation.

FREE’s volunteers are not beset by the lack of inspiration and the bureaucratic sluggishness of other social service agencies. FREE volunteers are personally acquainted with the problems of Soviet Jewry, having undergone the same transitions themselves. FREE’s volunteers do not look at their work as a profession, but as assisting friends and family.

Distribution of Kosher food to newly arrived immigrants.

Many of FREE’s volunteers were on the front lines of Jewish assistance in Russia, but fortunately in America, they can do their work out in the open, without fear for their very lives.

From a Jewish immigrant’s first moments in America, FREE is there to help. From meeting families at the airport upon arrival to helping apartment hunt; from offering classes in English to assistance in job placement; from help with material difficulties to advice about Jewish life and classes on observance of Torah and Mitzvot. FREE’s efforts for Russian Jewish immigrants exceeds the bounds of social work, and enters the realm of family helping family.

The following is a brief accounting of FREE’s social & humanitarian service programs:

Assistance Locating Homes and Apartments:
FREE helps Russian-speaking immigrants decipher advertisements for rentals and homes, and assists with the myriad of arrangements necessary for a successful move.

Job Placement:
Helping newly arrived immigrants seek out job opportunities; draft resumes; transportation to interviews and initial days at work.

Distribution of Used Clothing and Furniture:
The generosity of the New York Jewish community has enabled FREE to establish a used clothing and furniture clearinghouse. To date, over 5,000 families have taken advantage of the clearinghouse to help cloth their children & families and furnish their new surroundings.

Kosher Food:
One of the basic obstacles to keeping the laws of Kashrus is its prohibitive expense. Many refugees desire to keep this mitzvah but cannot afford to. FREE accommodates them by providing two sets of vessels, one for meat and one for milk.

With the help of large kosher slaughterhouses, FREE distributes kosher meat and chicken to refugees on a weekly basis, at prices below wholesale, making kosher meat much cheaper and attractive than the non-kosher alternative.

At Passover, FREE enables Jews to properly celebrate the holiday by providing them with matzos. To date, FREE has distributed over 700,000 pounds of matzah to Russian Jewry.

English Classes:
From it’s inception, FREE Social & Humanitarian Services coordinates with the Adult Education Division, offering classes in the English language designed to empower Russian immigrants to navigate and succeed in their new surroundings. With the full collapse of communism in 1989, FREE launched an English language academy, offering English courses on a large scale, with over 50 classes operating simultaneously at various locations in the heavily Russian populated areas throughout the United States.

For more information about FREE’s social & humanitarian services, or to make a tax-deductible donation of kosher food, used clothing or furniture, please contact FREE Headquarters at 718 467-0860 Ext. 101; Fax (718) 467-2146;
Email: info@russianjewry.org.

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