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Chanukah Party For Russian Jews

“Sixty years after the Revolution and the Jewish spark still remains strong!!”

This statement was certainly underscored last Sunday, December 4th, 1977 in the Grand Ballroom on Eastern Parkway, where over 1900 recently-arrived Russian immigrants were treated to a full-scale dinner in honor of the festival of Chanukah. For most of these immigrants, it was the first Chanukah that they had ever experienced.

Organized by F.R.E.E. (Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe), the beautifully prepared tables were stocked with all manner of kosher delicacies and, of course, a good measure of vodka! The entire atmosphere in the large ballroom was permeated with true joy and happiness, and during the 31/2-hour program, many eyes were filled with tears of joy and deep feelings.

The students of the Bi-lingual day school that F.R.E.E. runs for Russian-born children staged a beautiful Chanukah play, while there chior treated us to many moving Jewish-Russian songs composed especially for the occasion. A troupe of agile dancers from among the students performed native Russian dances so enthusiastically -that their excitement gripped the entire audience and all rose eagerly to participate. The hall was soon filled with happy, dancing Russians!

The main speaker at the gala celebration was Rabbi Zev Nisnevitch, a prominent Russian born educator and lecturer who is himself, a recent arrival from behind the Iron Curtain. His warm words inspired all those present to increase their commitment to our Jewish heritage.

Finally, after the previous entertainment, the first Chanukah candle was lit, and all the men (over 800 of them) received Chanukah menorahs and a box of candles. All women and girls present were given Sabbath candles and candlesticks. Additionally, everyone present received an attractive brochure about the historical and. philosophical significance of Chanukah in the Russian -language, one of more than 50 Russian language publications printed and distributed by F.R.E.E.
The final surprise was the distribution of a dollar to each participant, a special present from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson. All certainly left with the feeling that Judaism has real and true meaning – and that this Chanukah celebration was an especially memorable occasion.

Thank You

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