Tikva Odessa

100_0832So, I would like to think that I have performed some mitzvot in my life and maybe even made a difference in someone’s life over the years.  Tikva is in a whole different universe of mitzvah work.  Let me explain.

The Ukrainian state orphanage/adoption system is a corrupt and failing enterprise (and that is being generous).  As the Jewish community started to organize itself after the fall of the Soviet Union (Ukraine – as a country – is only 20 years old), it was clear that Jewish children needed to be rescued from these horrible institutions.  And thus, Tikva was born.

Tikva takes in Jewish children off the streets, from hospitals, out of abusive homes – from anywhere really – and changes their lives.  They run three homes – one for all children under the age of twelve and the older children are split into a boys’ home and a girls’ home.  Only 10% of these kids are orphans in the truest sense of the word.  The rest are called “social orphans.”  They have been abandoned or their parents are incapable of caring for them.  They are not adoptable because their parents have not formally renounced them.  Further, the aforementioned agency which oversees adoption would place them in Ukrainian homes before letting them go to Jewish homes in other countries.

In addition, Tikva runs schools from kindergarten through high school  – not only for the kids in their homes but also for kids in the community who are at risk.  Great Metro West Federation has funded a really terrific computer lab for the boys’ school.

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(Now, we have to fund one for the girls’ school too!!!)

If that were not enough, they now provide free university educations for Jewish students.  I had dinner tonight with a group of Tikvah University students who are studying finance, management and education.

But, the most incredible part of the day was our visit to the home for the youngest children….

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The kids were adorable and amazing.  The staff was loving and incredible. We brought presents with us for the kids, but the truth is that they are no different than the kids under my own roof.  All they wanted to do was play with my phone…..

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The one boy in these pictures is named Nikolai.  Before visiting the Children’s Home, our group got to meet his mother and grandmother in their home.  I have to admit that I was shocked by the poverty and out of respect for them, I chose not to take any photos of them or their living conditions.  But, when I met Nikolai at the Children’s Home, I realized how fortunate he is.

I am truly inspired by the work done here.

Shalom,

RAF.

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About Rabbi Avi Friedman

I am the rabbi of Congregation Ohr Shalom - SJCC, a progressive Conservative and traditional congregation. I am also husband to Jodi as well as father to Gabi, Jonah, Jessica and Ilana. I have been a part of the Summit community since 2005.
This entry was posted in Random Thoughts, Ukraine Mission 2013 and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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