Kharkov’s popular Jewish summer camp, established in the summer of 1991 while tanks were roaming the streets of the now-independent Ukrainian city, marks thirty years of exceptional success in reviving Judaism across the region and especially among the thousands of its graduates.
Only a year after the arrival of Rabbi Moshe and Mrs. Miriam Moskovitz in the Soviet city of Kharkov, before the USSR was dismantled, to revive the Jewish community from the ashes and serve as the city’s Chief Rabbi – 80 young children and teenagers joined the first Jewish summer camp to be held in the city for over 70 years of communism.
That summer, troublesome winds began to blow from Moscow threatening to return Communism to power – the August 1991 coup. Many voiced their opinion, including members of the Jewish community that the Rabbi and his family should flee before it was too late. However, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson OBM, instructed his young emissaries to stay. The ‘Gan Israel’ camp continued.
That year’s camp set the foundation for the years to come and contributed greatly to the expansion of the newly emerging community.
“The following story,” Says Mrs. Miriam Moskovitz, “serves as a beautiful example of the camp’s extensive influence and impact.”
“Seven years later, during the Summer of 1998, a grandmother walked into the Synagogue on Pushkinskaya Street to borrow a book from the library. However, she ended up enrolling her grandson, Yasha, in the ‘Gan Israel’ summer camp.
“Summer came, and by the end of camp, Yasha decided to have a ‘Brit Mila’ and chose the name of Yaakov. He was determined to follow in the footsteps of his counselor, and years later Rabbi Yaakov Yakimenko became the director of ‘Gan Israel’ in Kharkov.
“This summer, his son Mendel, celebrated his Bar Mitzvah and together with his father chose to celebrate the occasion in the summer camp where they first encountered Judaism.”
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