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From Hunting Wolf To Donning Tefillin

CINCINNATI, OHIO – Fourteen-year-old Aaron recalls with pain the hardships he went through in a Ukrainian forest trying to stay alive. “We lived out of a tent for two years in the bitter cold,” he says. “We would collect wood and make fires to keep ourselves from freezing.

“We hunted rabbit and deer for food, and from time to time we would get a wolf. We barbecued the meat and tried to make a living by selling the hide of the animal at the market place. With the few rubles we earned we would go and buy bread to sur­vive,” Aaron tells the Lubavitch representative here.

Not that Aaron was homeless. He was forced to leave his home in the Ukrainian city of Moheyleyv-Podelsk because his father, an abusive alcoholic, would beat him, his brother and mother Faina. “We ran away from our father and lived in the forest under the open skies,” he tells the shaliach, who relayed his story to FREE.

He finally arrived in this country to stay with his uncle Yakov, Faina’s brother, in Cincinnati. The Lubavitch shaliach there heard of the boy’s plight and arranged to bring him to Camp FREE last sum­mer, where he could enjoy great summer fun, with (new) friends of Russian-speaking background.

While Aaron was settling in the U.S., Faina got sick with breast cancer. She was treated, and Aaron was flown to New York where a Crown Heights fam­ily took him in. He now studies at the FREE Ye-shiva Ohel Dovid High School, and is supported by FREE and his caretaker family.

Last year as Aaron’s bar mitzvah approached, FREE bought him a pair of tefillin and flew in his mother from Cincinnati. FREE made all the arrangements for a festive bar mitzvah celebration.

Aaron now dons his tefillin daily and davens with fervor, praying that his mother completely recuperates. And he’s become a diligent student at the yeshiva.

Aaron’s story is one of many in which FREE answers the call of Russian Jews needing assistance in improving their lives.
Together with Chabad-Lubavitch’s worldwide net­work, FREE provides the physical and spiritual tools to help transform a life bereft of Yiddishkeit and hap­piness into a Jewish life of normalcy and belonging. For more information about FREE, go to or call 718-467-0860 #123.

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