On June 3, Daniel and Estie Wolfson are to host a community-wide reception to benefit Be’er Hagolah. The event will feature famed refusenik and author Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich. Rabbi Mendelevich tells the inspiring tale of how he joined a group of Jewish underground activists in the Soviet Union and attempted to hijack a Soviet plane to escape the USSR in 1970. Arrested by the KGB, he endured 11 years in the horrors of the Gulag prison. Interestingly, upon Rabbi Mendelevich’s arrival in the U.S. after winning his freedom in 1981, one of his first stops was to visit the then-nascent school of Be’er Hagolah where he was deeply moved to see hundreds of Russian children learning Torah, as he could have only dreamed.
The Wolfson family’s connection to Be’er Hagolah began in 1979, when the Iron Curtain began to fall and a flood of Russian immigrants poured onto our shores. Mr. Zev Wolfson donated the seed money to open a Jewish school for the children of these new arrivals, a Vaad Hachinuch was formed with Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt’l, serving as chairman along with many prominent rabbanim, and Be’er Hagolah was born.
The Wolfson family’s relationship with Be’er Hagolah continues. Most recently, they have generously funded the alumni leadership program, which has seen tremendous success in their girls’ high school division. This program helps provide Be’er Hagolah’s alumni with the opportunity to mainstream into frum society whilst giving back to Be’er Hagolah.
The alumni program has helped send many girls to seminaries in Israel and America. Numerous alumni work in mainstream yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs, but Be’er Hagolah’s greatest nachas is the large number of alumni who teach and work at Be’er Hagolah. The Kallah Club guides kallahs in planning a frum wedding and building a Jewish home. Additionally, the program helps fund Shabbatons, events, and speakers which are run by the alumni and a successful mentoring program which pairs successful alumni with high school students so that they can inspire and guide these future graduates to follow in their footsteps.
Askanim from Be’er Hagolah are often asked, “Aren’t we finished rescuing Russian Jewry? Why the need to support Be’er Hagolah?” Stand outside many of the public schools in Brooklyn or Queens, and you will see hundreds of Jewish children attending with little chance of ever learning about Yiddishkeit. It is plain to see that we have not concluded the chapter of the rescue of Russian Jewry.
Knowing that they are competing with public schools which are free, Be’er Hagolah maintains its policy of never turning away a child because of his or her parents’ inability to pay tuition. The average Russian or Bukharian parent does not understand the importance of a Jewish education—certainly not paying for a Jewish education—after every vestige of religious importance was eradicated from their psyche for three or four generations.
“While we do not get much in the way of tuition from our parent body,” says Mrs. Kaufman, executive director, “as a result of our efforts, baruch Hashem, our alumni do pay tuition to the regular, mainstream chadarim and Bais Yaakovs to which they send their children.”
“When it came time to register my son in yeshivah and I received a tuition statement, I was astounded,” says an animated Tanya Rosen. “I called my husband to ask him what it was. I didn’t know that the concept of tuition existed. In all my years at Be’er Hagolah, my parents never received a tuition bill,” stresses Tanya. “I would definitely have been sent to public school had they been asked to pay tuition. The warmth and passion found in Be’er Hagolah gave me the confidence to be who I am today, and because of the love of Judaism that my teachers transmitted, instead of being a statistic in assimilated Jewry, my husband and I are raising our family in Flatbush committed to a Torah life.”
Be’er Hagolah has been inspiring children to see the beauty of their Jewish heritage and to live a life of Torah for nearly 35 years. Please help support Be’er Hagolah and give chizuk to Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich by attending the reception at the home of Daniel and Estie Wolfson on June 3 at 8:00 p.m. v