700 Join Russian-Speaking Hakhel Shabbaton

Back in person and better than ever: The 14th International Jewish Russian Shabbaton was a Mega Hakhel event lasting three idyllic days with an impact that lasts a lifetime.

Was it the great food? The inspiring lectures? The entertainment? The amazing children’s program? The camaraderie? Add to it the joy of finally being together again, meeting old friends and making new ones, which permeated the entire weekend. Seven hundred Russian-speaking Yidden from the full spectrum of Torah observance gathered at the Mountain Laurel Resort in the beautiful Pocono mountains. 

Shluchim from 40 communities and 16 states brought their mekuravim, young and old, families with small children, professionals, students, singles, and teens. Many experienced an authentic Shabbos for the very first time, k’ish echad b’lev echad. The Shabbaton was sold out within two weeks of opening registration, with many more we could not accommodate. 

No effort nor expense was spared to provide the ultimate learning experience and top notch musical entertainment. The choice of over 70 inspiring and informative lectures and workshops—several running simultaneously in English and in Russian—the sensational concerts, the abundant gourmet cuisine, the beauty of an authentic Shabbos Hakhel celebration, the feeling of achdus that permeated the large crowd, surpassed all expectations. The guests enjoyed kayaking, horseback riding and hiking in a scenic mountain setting, all on hotel grounds.

From the lavish welcome buffet lunch on Friday thru the farewell meal Sunday afternoon, it was one joyous mega Hakhel celebration. The lectures by some of the greatest Torah scholars in the Jewish world, rabbis, doctors, and professors, were delivered both in Russian and English on a broad range of topics.

Many weeks of meticulous planning by Rabbi Benzion Laskin, the Shabbaton Director, were evident by the smooth running of the event.

This herculean undertaking is a joint project of Lubavitch Youth Organization, under the directorship of Program Director, Rabbi Kasriel Kastel and Chamah International: Rabbi Hillel Zaltzman, President, Rabbi Moshiach Chudaitov, Executive Vice President, Rabbi Binyomin Malachovski, Executive Director, Rabbi Benzion Laskin, Shabbaton Director and Program Director of Chamah and Rabbi Berri Spitezki, Director of Development, Rabbi Menachem Chuzhin, Controller. Special thanks to the Shabbaton  Program Committee: Rabbis Benzion Laskin, Baruch Lepkivker, Moshe Chaim Levin, Velvel Belinsky, Eli Kogan and Mrs. Esther Tauber.

World-renowned speaker Rabbi YY Jacobson mesmerized the guests with his keynote address. Speakers were flown in from Israel, Australia, Russia, and Canada: Rabbi Yehoram Ulman, Av Beis Din, Sidney, Australia; Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie, Shalaiach, Yorba Linda, CA; Rabbi Boruch Gorin, Spokesperson for FJC, Moscow; Mrs. Miriam Lipskier, Shlucha Chabad of Emory University, Atlanta, GA; Rabbis Dov-Ber Baytman and Alexander Pruchanskiy, Israel.  A book fair featured books on a large variety of Jewish topics in Hebrew, English, and Russian. The program covered a vast array of topics including halacha, kabbalah, text-based Torah study sessions, Torah and science, optimizing good health, interpersonal relationships, family, chassidus, and hands-on workshops, such as challah baking, food decorating, and more.

The Shabbaton had the support of the WZO, the World Zionist Organization. Marina Rozenberg Karitny, Head of the Department for Promotion of Aliya,delivered an inspiring speech at the opening session on Friday.

After the Shabbos Queen was eloquently ushered out, the fun-filled Motzoei Shabbos program began, kicked off by an incredible Jewish Jazz Concert by vivacious and acclaimed Israeli Composer and Singer Zlata Razdolina, with her band, and violinist Rivka Miriam Fisher. Soon, the ladies were on their feet and jubilantly dancing with exuberance.

The excitement was palpable as the guests filed into the grand ballroom for the Gala Melave Malka Dinner. Israeli singing sensation Shlomo Nizin, live in concert with his band and renowned cantor Aryeh Leib Horowitz mesmerized the guests, and Robert Cait the “Chosen Comedian” had the guests rolling, rounding out the perfect evening. 

The single’s program was run by Shluchim Dan and Sara Rodkin, and in-house shadchanim Chana Raksin and Lea Yechilov, were dedicated to helping singles find their bashert in a Jewish setting. The shadchanim met one on one with singles and gave lectures on dating. Separate events were held for younger and older singles. Each year several couples who had met at the Russian Shabbaton are married. This year, a happy couple who met at the first Shabbaton came back with their children. 

The fun-filled and educational children’s three full-day program, which freed the parents to fully participate and enjoy the event was ably headed by Bracha Zaltzman and Rachel Heller. The much-appreciated babysitting program was headed by Yona Glass

From the time the candles were lit by hundreds of mothers and daughters, through the inspiring, uplifting Havdalah, it was truly a Hakhel Shabbaton to remember. Indeed, new steps were taken by many attendees, women lighting Shabbos candles for the first time, couples inspired to begin keeping taharas hamishpacha,  and many donning tefilin for the first time. 

The participants shared their history of surviving Soviet Communism, and how their unique Russian mentality still affects them culturally here in America. At the Shabbaton with their usual defenses down, surrounded by others like themselves they felt comfortable to begin opening up, exploring, asking, and even doing. Following the Shabbaton, several families motivated by the fantastic programs for teens and children decided to give their children a Jewish education.

In keeping in line with the Rabbonim's policies for websites, we do not allow comments. However, our Rabbonim have approved of including input on articles of substance (Torah, history, memories etc.)

We appreciate your feedback. If you have any additional information to contribute to this article, it will be added below.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

advertise package