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FREE’s Alumni’s Unite

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.

An Evening of Alumni Reunion & Friendship

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 being celebrated.

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:

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