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Crème de la Krim

The official blog of Chabad of Crimea

Updated: 2014-10-04T22:51:46.299-07:00


Our new website


Hi! Thanks for coming to see us here at Creme de la Krim! We've moved to a new location, and would love to have you come visit us there. Our new website is and the blog is on it at .

We've also added a Russian blog, magazine, photo galleries, Judaica store, kosher list and hospitality information and tons more!

So please do come along and join us there, and let us know what you think of our new look.

With love,

Leah & Co.

DRY BONES: Cliff-hanger


I think this is just so descriptive of our life here!

13th Letter from Crimea


B”HSpring, 2006/5766Dear Everyone,So many of my friends keep asking me for my letters. I know I’ve been terribly remiss. It’s been a combination of many factors. For one thing, there is just so much work, and so few hours to do it all. Things pile up, sleep is pushed to the side, and when can I possibly find the time to write? For another thing, in spite of our “trials and tribulations,” I’ve always tried to keep my letters upbeat. Usually I can look back at what has happened, and laugh. I keep on waiting, sometimes more patiently, sometimes less, for the time when I can look back and laugh, and write you one of those funny letters, but it just hasn’t come yet. I know it will, but it just ain’t happened yet.This past Thursday night, someone scrawled swastikas and “Death to the Jews” on our gate. Tonight, following a football game, there was a street war between the skinheads, rappers, and other groups. We were warned about it ahead of time. I sent all the girls to stay in the apartment of Baila, the school’s mashgicha. The boys locked themselves into the house. There are bars on the windows – for whatever they’re worth in a serious situation, chas v’sholom. We haven’t had any guards for the last two months, because we don’t have the money with which to pay them, so there was nobody guarding the house. My son Dovid spoke to someone from “security” (the 3 letter guys) and pre-arranged that chas v’sholom, if they would hear anyone climbing over the wall, they would call him immediately, and he would get a SWAT team over right away. It was a very tense night, but Boruch Hashem, it passed without incident.Not so last January, when a group of 17 of us, mainly children and young adults, (I was the only older person,) were walking home from shul at 8:00 one Friday evening. Born and bred in suburban America, Boruch Hashem, I was never personally faced with anti-Semitism before. Yes, this is one of the many problems facing us – the resurgence of prejudice and hostility towards Jews in the Former Soviet Union. We were walking along the dimly lit street -- it used to make me feel like I was walking on the set of an old movie -- when suddenly two groups of 17-20 year olds, (a total of nearly 30,) who were waiting in ambush for us on both sides of the intersection, called out "One, two, three! There they are -- get them!" Most of the older boys had already passed, and they cowardly mainly attacked the girls. They zig-zagged crazily towards us. One ringleader ran in my direction, narrowly missing me as I dumbly stepped aside, thinking that he was running from his peers, not at us! But missing me, he targeted frail 11 year old Beila Zhvakalyuk, smashing his fist hard into her face and knocking her to the ground in a pool of blood. He immediately punched Svieta Abramovych, a 20 year old teacher (who was learning for geirus at the time) in the head, knocking her over as well. Then he punched Ettel Dolgaya in the jaw, and ran away. Others attacked 2 young men, Lonya and Sasha.* The entire attack probably lasted only a few minutes, but was shattering. Beila and Svieta (now Sarah Rivkah) are both still suffering the effects of their concussions, and little Beila's nose was broken and required surgery. Worse yet, her mother changed her mind, and won't let her learn in the school! Obviously the attack caused traumatic repercussions amongst those present and other students of Bais Menachem, the only Jewish Day School in Crimea, as well as in the wider Jewish community. One precious child, (who was not present at the time of the attack,) has been taken out of the Jewish School as a result, since her family is afraid of her growing up Jewish now. Beila, the most harshly attacked, immediately said "my mother is a psychologist and will let me keep coming for Shabbos." In the hospital, the first thing she told her parents (only her mother is Jewish) was "those guys spoiled my Shabbos!" (Unfortunately, her mother hasn’t lived up to Baila’s expectations,[...]

12th Letter from Crimea


B”HTo My Dear Friends Abroad,Remember me? I guess I have really been a “naughty girl” – I haven’t written a letter for over two years! Not that I haven’t written letters -- I write quite a number every day in e-mail form. But I haven’t written a LETTER -- like one of these. My excuse is that I have been so extremely darned busy, that there just wasn’t time for it! It used to be that we got very busy for one holiday or program, and then there was a short break till the next. But now things have gotten so eventful that one thing just runs into the next into the next into the next... Pesach, which is a major deal here and takes time to wind down from runs into Lag B’Omer -- which runs into the end of the school year -- which runs into Shavuous -- and meanwhile since well before Pesach we’ve been hard at work on summer camps -- with a trip to Israel for a conference of shluchim from the Former Soviet Union set exactly between the two camps -- which runs into preparations for expanding the school -- then the Yomim Tovim, -- and back to school again -- then youth clubs to set up -- the Kollel learning Institute -- meals to be served daily in the school, shul, and dorm -- people who need clothing and food and other essentials – farbrengens and classes and Shabbatons -- and soon it will be Chanukah and winter camp and Purim and then back to summer camp and Pesach again! Meanwhile I’ve succeeded in making one of the world’s longest run-on sentences, which my high school English teacher would be appalled at, but it was intentional, to give you a mini idea of what’s going on here; and he isn’t around anyway!Meanwhile, life goes on as usual. The electricity goes on and off at will – the will of the sadist who sits in his warm office pushing buttons all day to turn the electricity on and off in the various sections of town; except his own, of course. The area where “They” live (near the center of the town, where the new shul will be, G-d willing,) always has gas, electricity, and running water. I am wary as I print these words, because yesterday morning at 7:10 a.m. “They” turned off the electricity till about 9:30 a.m. “They” play games with us. They’ll turn off the electricity at the same time every day so you think you know when it will be on and when it will be off, and when you’re pretty sure you know just what to expect, they change it on you. So now at 6:30 a.m. I am frantically typing, and “saving” after every couple of sentences; because one of the most maddening things is when you’ve typed an entire document, and then the electricity goes off on you and you lose the whole thing! [Save.] I also prepared by turning the heat up to high so that maybe the house will stay warm for a little bit longer when the electricity (probably, maybe) goes off. The other maddening thing is this #*&%?@#!* computer -- which somehow lost its control panel, and continues somehow to do half a job without it -- keeps on omitting letters, so I have to keep going back to correct it. We learn to be pretty efficient with our time, so I’ve brought a flashlight out here and nail polish, and when the lights go out I can nail polish the computer. No, I haven’t gone totally bananas -- The Russian letters on the keyboard keep coming off. So I finally cleaned the keys, wrote the letters on again -- for the umpteenth time -- with “permanent” marker – and plan to cover them with clear polish when I can’t type anyway! [Save.]Whew! False alarm! Another infuriating thing about this awful computer is that a window keeps popping up saying that I’ve done something illegal (like drug dealing? Nah – that’s only out in the street in front of the house!) and the program is going to be closed down. At least since I had the foresight to save the letter ahead of time, I can open it again. In fact I can open it lots of times, maybe even hundreds of times, because the dumb computer makes copies of documents every time you op[...]

11th Letter from Crimea


B"HChabad of the CrimeaMironova 24Simferopol, Crimea 333001 UkraineTel/fax: 380–652–240–231e-mail chabad@cris.crimea.uaTo my dear friends --This always seems to happen. The summer and the holidays fly by, so packed with camp and work and projects, and suddenly it’s time that I must sit down and write a letter again, and I can't believe that so much time has flown by since the previous one, and that I haven't written already!Camp was wonderful! Thank goodness, with a lot of hard work, and by offering a discount for early registration, (off the regular huge price of under $10 per kid per season!) most of the kids were signed up earlier than in previous years. (Usually they have this bad habit of waiting until the last few days to sign up.)I am going to "cheat" a bit now, and tell you about my first day in camp by quoting from a letter I wrote to someone at that time. (Most days ran in a similar vein.) “It is now midnight, and my name is rubber ball, not Leah. Today was the first day of camp. I have been running back and forth, back and forth, with two drivers, simultaneously taking care of the girls’ and boys’ camps and being the mashgiach in the kitchen. (The kitchen is in the girls’ camp, and we shlep the food over to the boys’ camp, and then bring back all the empty containers.) There is a combined staff of 27 people, who all need me. Two boy translators showed up late, (one in the girls’ camp,) the girls’ tour guide changed her mind about working for us, two girl translators cancelled on us, (one without informing us,) the counselor from Kharkov whom I expected tomorrow is going to Moscow instead, there was no water in the camp kitchen, and the electricity went out twice for two hours each time (and the stoves are electric.) The boys forgot to take money to the pool to pay for swimming, and one of the translators seems to be too shy to translate, but in spite of everything, it was really a great first day! The kids are all happy. (Except for the girl whose shoe broke; though I imagine she’s happy already too. After seeing the broken shoe and her clothing, which looked like it was from my mother’s time, we sent her home with a new pair of shoes and a bag full of clothing.) The cook is happy too, because the kids all ate the food! I have a guest who had been a counselor in another camp who is leaving from my house at 2:00 a.m. (if she shows up on time – she is out playing billiards with her campers.) Two more of our counselors are due in from Israel at around that time, so there’s one very unhappy driver who is up all night waiting at the airport again (he had to do this last week also.) Wow! I can’t believe that the bochurim are only here a week. I still have to put one more bed in each apartment, find two replacement translators, and try to deal with some people who are really “teaching” me how to be calm and diplomatic. Of course, Itchie is not here – he is in America, trying to raise the funds to pay for all this! Basically, the counselors are all great, and have all put a tremendous amount of work into preparing for camp. In between everything else, I spend time trying to type things into the computer without falling asleep over it, which unfortunately is what I was doing till a few minutes ago.”Besides all the great Jewish things our campers learned, our counselors learned a lot also. I think that after the experience of a summer here, they will always remember to appreciate what they have! For example, eight families on our block share one water line. One of them is the gypsy family that lives across from us. (Most of them are gypsies and Tartars.) They make illegal vodka, and use the water nonstop...which leaves the rest of us without water. I have learned to live with it (unhappily,)* and do laundry on those occasions when there is water. However, when there are ten counselors who also need the washing machine, it's another story -- especially before and after the [...]

10th Letter from Crimea


B"HTammuz 18, 5758July 12, 1998To my dear friends,I want to begin by telling you about an amazing personal incident that happened to me not long ago. As you may know, after Pesach I went to America to receive medical attention. The previous time I had been in America, in February, I had suddenly and unexplicably become very weak -- so weak, that sometimes if I walked even a very short distance, I had to stop to renew my strength. Returning to Simferopol, I had to face cleaning for Pesach and helping to organize the six public sedarim, which I could not have done without the household help that I had B"H, due to my weakened state. (Usually if I'm a little weak, I pop a few vitamin pills, and I'm fine, but this time, that simple solution did not work.) Next, in the middle of a class, I suddenly had extreme chest pain, which lasted 15 minutes, and this repeated itself while I was saying the morning blessings at home on the first day of Pesach. Finally, several hours before the "last days" of Pesach, I felt my heart racing, took my pulse, and found it to be 140! A doctor friend of ours in the states told Itchie to give me half a cup of wine, and get me into bed, which is where I stayed for the remainder of the holiday, and the next week.My pulse lowered to 120, then 100, which was still way over my usual 60, and I was suffering frequent chest pain. By then I was hardly able to walk -- I was shuffling like an old lady. This all seemed very strange to me, since till then I had been in pretty good condition. I had all of our mezuzos checked, and they were fine. One had to be moved to the other side of the door, since at the time we had put it up, that had been the front door of our house; however since we had built a corridor connecting the house and the old office in February, it was no longer the main entrance, and the mezuzah should have been moved to the other side. However, this still did not correct my problems.Since we don't put too much faith in local medical facilities, I had to travel to America together with Itchie to seek treatment. B"H my cousin, who is a very good doctor, connected with an excellent hospital, was able to see me the day after I arrived. After checking me and performing a number of tests, he said that he felt that I was in quite good health, but because of my fast pulse, he suggested that I see a top cardiologist. B"H we had connections to a Bikur Cholim, (a Jewish medical referal organization that also helps to obtain medical attention for those who don't have insurance,) that we used to work with years ago, when we lived in Alabama. They made the arrangements for us, and (since we have no medical insurance in the States,) they took care of the fees for the doctors and most of the tests. Well, I had a check-up with a big Fifth Avenue cardiologist, he did more tests, and he also found me to be in great shape, except for the fast heartbeat!Considering all of the symptoms, and the fact that I am not prone to hypochondria, I felt that this was very strange. I was quite nervous about the prospect of returning to the Crimea, and then having an emergency, Heaven forbid, and not having anywhere to turn to for medical help. I thought "Rebbe, I want to return to Simferopol to continue your shlichus, so please give me some kind of a sign as to what the problem is!" That was on a Thursday. The same evening we went to visit our oldest daughter Elkie and her family. They had just bought a new house, which I had already seen, so originally, only Itchie was supposed to go to look at it. However, since we were planning on being in Montreal for Shabbos, and were short on time, instead of driving back and forth, I also went with them. The house was now in the middle of renovations. In the dining room, where there had been a mural and lovely wall treatments, they had ripped open one wall, and two old windows were now exposed. I asked Elkie why they would do such a thing, and she told[...]

9th Letter from Crimea


B"HIyar 2, 5758April 28, 1998Dear Everyone,Hi! Hope you are all well and enjoying this period of post-Pesach calm.First of all, I would like to update you on the sequel to “Miracle of Mironova,” our harrowing experience with thieves and would-be murderers on Simchas Torah, in the fall of 1996. One evening, while Itchie was in America (of course!) and I was preparing to give a class, one of the women came into the house looking for me. “There’s a man here to see you,” she said. “But he doesn’t look like someone we should let in.” I went out to the courtyard and looked into the same intense hazel eyes that had last stared at me over the muzzle of a Berretta. “You know me,” said the man. “I was here before.” “A year and three months ago?” I hesitatingly asked. “Yes,” was his terse reply. This man was our old friend, the “chief thief.” I have to admit that I was nervous and started thinking about how to get back inside with the door safely locked behind me. You probably remember that we had had a long serious discussion with him about the Sheva Mitzvos Bnai Noach, and about how he could turn around from that point on and change his life. At the time he had asked, “Do you mean that if I came back to you in a week without my mask on and asked you to help me to change my life, you would?” Itchie had answered him affirmatively. Well, he now proceeded to tell me that during the week after the robbery, he’d done a lot of thinking and he’d decided to leave Simferopol for Dniepropetrovsk, where he’d met “a holy lady” (he’s not Jewish) who had helped reform him. He’d now come back to us, as per her directive, to apologize for what he’d done to us. (Not to return anything, mind you. Just to apologize.) He was sorry he’d scared us, he said, and of course, never would he have shot a child! (Tell that to the child who he held a gun on!) However, the main thing is that we’d been sure at the time that there must have been a reason — some hashgocha protis — Divine Providence — for the experience. And there it was! He had taken our words to heart, and for now, at least, there is one less crook walking the streets of Simferopol.Purim was a blast! We brought in two bochurim from Eretz Yisroel, who stayed until after Pesach. They read the Megillah in several cities — there were a total of six Megillah readings in three Crimean cities this year. Six hundred people heard the story of Purim, and got Shalach Manos (food gifts) which they exchanged, as per Jewish law, with their friends. In Simferopol alone, 150 people attended the gala Purim dinner where they were entertained by musicians, and treated to an amusing and lively Purim shpiel, written and performed by our great new teen group. (Note: Last Shabbos afternoon, the talented authoress of the Purim shpiel was hit by a car, and has been hospitalized. She will soon be undergoing a third operation as a result of the accident. Please join us in saying Tehillim for Lieba Masha bas Zhenya, that she should have a complete and speedy recovery.) It was a very successful program, which many felt to have been our most enjoyable event to date. Many of the young people became quite “turned on” to Yiddishkeit through it.*Not having been able to experience Torah-true Judaism for 75 years, it is very easy for the missionaries and cults to dupe the unfortunate people in the former Soviet Union. They are trying to make inroads in the Crimea, so we decided to undertake a very ambitious project — to celebrate Pesach authentically in five major cities, involving as many people as possible. We were able to accomplish this is a large part due to the magnanimity of the Rohr family, and several other individuals. The accomplishments were many. Before Pesach even began, Eli and Moishie, the two bochurim who had come before Purim, organized a Model Matzah Bakery. This was no small fea[...]

8th Letter from Crimea


B"HNovember, 1997Dear Everyone,Well, I guess I’ve procrastinated about as much as I decently can already, and I have to start writing! I remember when we lived in the South, people told us we’d have to slow down because of the heat. We didn’t slow down then, but I think I am now — I don’t know if it’s something in the air here, or just my old age creeping up on me!Now, where did we leave off? Camp was really great this year! Unfortunately everyone does things by “Jewish time” here, and until a week before camp we only had about 20 or 30 kids registered. I was embarrassed to let the counselors know how few kids had registered! But, thank G-d, by the time camp began, it was closer to a hundred. We had really excellent staff — four of last year’s counselors returned, which was an enormous boon to the camp. The spirit was great. We rented a huge gymnasium where the boys’ camp met, and the girls camp was in the same school that we rented last year. The kids really enjoyed themselves while learning about Judaism, and a number of kids returned after camp for our pre-holiday program and Simchas Bais Hashoeva (Sukkos party).Before camp, when Itchie was in America the Beautiful, I decided to be a good Girl Scout, and “be prepared.” I wasn’t going to wait until the week before Rosh Hashana and then find out whether or not there would be a shoichet (and meat or chickens) for the holidays. I had Itchie buy enough chickens for the summer and through the Yomim Tovim. Also turkey, hot dogs, and chopped meat. This was going to be a real treat! Of course, he brought our regular cheeses with him as well. It cost a lot extra for the overweight, of course, but everything seemed to be going well — no delays or missed planes — until he got to Kiev, that is, (where we had a truck ready to drive him and everything he was bringing for camp and the holidays to Simferopol). The only hitch was that air France had different plans -- they had decided that someone else’s baggage was more important than ours, and took all of our boxes off the plane in Paris!! But they were very kind and rushed it all to customs in Simferopol four days later, where it didn’t get the very best reception since it was already slightly past its prime. The only thing we could salvage from the entire order, which together with the overweight had cost us $1,500, was a few packages of American cheese!Well, at least we still had plenty of time until Rosh Hashana. After camp, Itchie and I had to be in Israel for his father’s a"h yahrtzeit. We ordered chickens from a large plant in Israel, and even instructed them to have a letter ready from the health department doctor attesting to the uncontaminated state of the chickens, as is required by Ukrainian law. This was to be ready and waiting for us so that we could pick it up on the way to the airport. However, as they say: “A mentsch tracht un Der Aibershter lacht!” Of course, the promised letter was not waiting for us. Although I was frustrated at the time, Boruch Hashem Itchie had the foresight to insist that we would only take the two cases of donated chickens, not the rest of our order, and try our “luck.” Even though the chickens were completely frozen, the customs officials confiscated them, together with several large bags of chicken soup mix, our cheese, and even the cans of tuna. I made one unbelievable scene in the airport, but nothing we could do or say helped. Still no meat for Yom Tov, and the time was getting shorter!Ah! But there were still the bochurim who were coming from Israel to help us for Yom Tov! We sent two very precisely worded faxes to them, explaining exactly what we needed them to bring. We got someone to donate six cases of chicken. We told them exactly where to get the medical letter. Etcetera.We followed up with phone calls. One went something like this:Itchie: “Can y[...]

7th Letter from Crimea


B”H24 MironovaSimferopol, Crimea 95001 UKRAINERosh Chodesh Sivan 5757June 6, 1997Dear Everyone,It’s hard to believe that six months have gone by since my last letter. Oh well, time flies when you’re having fun! I mentioned in my second letter that I thought that I would eventually run out of interesting happenings to relate, but that G-d still seems to be supplying us with new material. After my last letter, I was convinced “surely we can’t top that one.” “Not so,” said The One Above, 'there is no limit to what the Omnipotent can do!' So here are the details of our latest escapades. (But please don’t pray for us to top this one, I don’t know how much more excitement we can take.)After Simchas Torah, the Rosh Hakahal (the official head of the Jewish Community) became ill and in October he passed away. He was a very respected man (he earned it) and it was a terrible loss to the community. He was the one who asked Chabad to send a shliach to this community, and the one to thank (!?!) for our family being relocated to Crimea. He and my husband (zg”z) had an unusual relationship. They had a real deep love and respect for each other, but because of their different environmental upbringing they would argue if and how to do each project that Itchie wanted to do. (Itchie -- a product of American upbringing -- believes that “everything is possible.” Reb Shimon a”h - a product of a communistic environment - believed “here, nothing is possible!”) In order for us to continue expanding our outreach programs without causing unnecessary over-reactions from the Rosh Hakahal, Itchie set up a separate official Chabad organization. Those activities which didn’t wreak havoc with Reb Shimon’s nervous system, were done under the auspices of the Jewish Community Religious Organization and those activities which were too “flamboyant” and “American” were done under the auspices of Chabad Lubavitch of the Crimea.Separate from the Jewish Community Religious Organization, there exists a Jewish Cultural Organization. The head of this organization always recognized that it existed as a separate organ only by the grace of Reb Shimon. Thus there was a good relationship between all organizations. Shortly after our family moved here, an aggressive person named Anatoly showed up saying that the head of the cultural organization, (who suddenly and without prior warning left to Israel,) gave him the official organization stamp and asked him to take over as president. The members of the “provlenia,” (board,) were upset but were too afraid to challenge his authority and thus a general unease in the community began to settle in. Anatoly knew that Reb Shimon was the only one powerful enough to have him unseated and was therefore very careful not to step on his toes. A number of those on the provlenia approached Itchie, telling him numerous horror stories of Anatoly's unscrupulous nature, asking Itchie to help unseat him. Itchie’s response was that it was within their power to vote him out, and if they would do that legally, he would openly support their choice. Actually, we already knew that this man was not honest. Several months earlier, it became known that via the offices of Lishkas Ezras Achim in Crown Heights, the U.S. government designated us as distributors for their humanitarian aid program in the Crimea. We would be getting 400 tons of rice, oil and bulghur wheat to give out to underprivileged people, schools, camps and hospitals. It was at that time that this newly “chosen” president of the cultural organization approached us with an offer that he was sure we could not turn down. He "suggested" that we should give him the 400 tons and he would sell it and share the money with us. "Half will go in my pocket, and half will go in your pocket," were his words. Itchie thanked him for his [...]

6th Letter from Crimea: MIRACLE ON MIRONOVA


B”HChabad of the CrimeaMironova 24Simferopol, Crimea 95001 UkraineTel/fax: 380–652–510–773E-mail chabadcrimea@cris.crimea.uaMessage: Sorry for the temporary interruption of my wife's popular letters about our life in Crimea. The overwhelming amount of work, against a backdrop of extremely trying circumstances, has made it impossible to write. Add to that, the frustration of having started to write several times, only to have had the computer stolen while working on something, and one's imagination still can't fathom the obstacles involved. The attached essay is meant to resume once more her string of letters. Due to the (hopefully) unique circumstances of the incident related below, the format and style is a bit different, yet we hope you will enjoy it as much as her other letters. Rabbi Yitzchok Meyer LipszycRosh Chodesh Kislev 5757November 12, 1996Miracle on Mironova Our sukkah this year was built between the wall around our house and the street. “Street” being a misnomer for an alley that is more potholes than road. The sukkah itself was constructed from long thin strips of raw wood covered by a lively multi-colored striped fabric, topped by whatever branches and foliage we could scavenge. The entrance was framed with pinecones and trim from the boys' Russian bunk bed, which had breathed its last that week. The floor, as typical of Simferopol at that time of year, was mud, as it had been raining almost without letup. Because the sukkah was outside our actual courtyard, we hired Sasha, our secretary's husband, to guard it throughout the nine nights of the holiday, so that nothing inside the sukkah would "walk away." In another Soviet city, some young people had erected a prefab sukkah one year. The first morning of Sukkos, they awoke to the sight of the bare skeleton of their sukkah, minus its blue and gold canvas walls. The following day they saw two women proudly walking down the street wearing their new "yomtov dresses" of the same material. So we figured a guard would be a good preventive measure. We knew we would be entertaining guests every night until around 1:00 AM, and the singing and talking might disturb our neighbors, who live in dire poverty. Therefore we met with Roza, the biggest complainer beforehand. She seems to be the block informer or liaison to the infamous 3 letter organization. We explained what would be occurring, and gave her food to distribute as gifts to everyone on the block. So we thought we had everything covered.Yomtov was quite uplifting, with 40 guests, the maximum that can be half normally squeezed into our dining room, at each meal. We imported some bochurim (rabbinical students), thanks to the help of Merkos Gutnik in Israel, which greatly enhanced the general holiday spirit and especially enlivened our Simchas Bais HaShoeva (the daily celebrations during the Sukkos holiday.)The men sang and danced in the sukkah, while the women sang and danced with tambourines, whirling under the stars in the courtyard. We even made a second mini-version of our sukkah which was mounted on a "pretzyept" or trailer. Our sukkah-mobile was emblazoned on three sides with boldly painted lulavim and esrogim, proclaiming the holiday to one and all. We took it to Yalta, Yevpatoria, and Sevastopol, topping off the holiday season with an extra joyous Simchas Torah in our shul in Simferopol. Additionally, Dovid and the bochurim traveled to Yevpatoria where they celebrated Simchas Torah with that community in their newly acquired shul.Before hakafos (dancing with the Torah) on the eve of Simchas Torah, as per his yearly custom, Itchie made kiddush in shul on vodka, immediately downing more than half the cup, as required by Jewish law. At first I was concerned because the only cups available were nine ounces, but I was somewhat relieved when someone pointed ou[...]

5th Letter from Crimea


B”HChabad of the CrimeaMironova 24Simferopol, Crimea 95001 UkraineTel/fax: 380–652–510–773e-mail chabadcrimea@cris.crimea.uaIyar 9, 5756Dear Everyone,Zdrastya! When my first letter was received with such enthusiasm and requests to keep these letters coming, I was afraid that I would eventually run out of interesting adventures to relate. I thought for sure that last Pesach had to be the worst. Not to worry, this Pesach preparations and problems at least matched, if not surpassed, last year's "fun". Thankfully, when I sat down to write this letter I realized that G-d was kind to me and gave me amnesia so that I wouldn't relive it. Nevertheless, I’ve racked my brains, and I'll try to share some of it with you.The Torah tells us that G-d prepares the cure before the problem. So while I was cleaning the books for Pesach, I came across a picture of the Rebbe burning chometz. None of us had ever seen this picture before and we don't know how it got into one of our books. I took it to be a sign, that despite my annual worry that I wouldn't be ready in time, everything would fall into place. Little did I know how important that assurance would be for me to keep my sanity (if indeed I am still sane).Itchie had left to the states the day after Purim. The plan had been for him to be there for just two weeks. Thank G-d there was a simcha in the family, so I agreed that he should stay until Monday, March 25th, the 5th of Nissan. This meant that he would arrive in Simferopol the 7th of Nissan, exactly one week before Pesach. A lot of planning had to go into coordinating everyone's return to Simferopol. Our children are spread over six countries. Elkie's family, Hudie, and Chanie are in the USA. Bashie's family is in Canada. Faigie is studying in France, Sholom Ber in England, and Mendy in Israel. Our five youngest are currently here with us in Crimea. We were also bringing two rabbinical students to run the public sedarim. My husband, Chanie, and the two bochurim, Dov Greenberg and Moshe Muchnik (son of Chassidic artist Michoel Muchnik) were leaving Monday from New York, due to arrive in Paris Tuesday morning. There they were to meet Faigie and continue on to Kiev. In Kiev, they were to be met by Sholom Ber and a special truck that we had hired to pick up: 1) Pesach products in Zhitomir, sent by Ezras Menachem of France; 2) Four tons of matzoh in Kiev, that should have been shipped the week of Purim, but weren't; 3) Pesach supplies from Ezras Achim in New York; and 4) Our 20 large U-Haul boxes of Pesach supplies. At that point, the crew of six was to be dropped off at the train station, where they had three pre-paid kupays (sleeper compartments) for the 20-hour train ride to Simferopol. I had to be in Kherson anyway (a seven hour trip by train), so I was to join them on the train when it stopped there. The truck with all our supplies would travel on to Simferopol, where hopefully we would all reunite as one big happy family on Wednesday morning, a mere week before Pesach.As the saying goes, "Man plans and G-d laughs." The flight from New York was two hours late. For some inexplicable reason the supervisor made the brilliant decision that, although fifteen passengers on that flight were continuing on to Kiev he was not going to hold the connecting flight for them. So they all missed it by 3 minutes — I kid you not! This meant they had to put all fifteen passengers up in a hotel, and supply them with three meals each (eight of the passengers had to be supplied kosher meals) for two days until the next Air France flight to Kiev. I wonder if that supervisor still has his job? In any case, someone did realize the financial folly of such a plan, and they were put on a different carrier instead the following day. But what about all our well-laid plans? Well, fo[...]

A Bit of Catching Up


I haven’t written anything for a while, and really still don’t have the time, but will try to write now anyway, and do some catching up.I was already in New York for the Convention of Shluchos on Tu B’Shvat, so unfortunately I missed the celebration here. Before I left, I decorated the school, made goody bags for everyone, and prepared the Shabbos menu for the shul accordingly, so that everyone got to taste the Sheva Minim – the seven special types of produce associated with Eretz Yisroel. Everyone especially enjoyed the cookies baked with barley flakes, wheat flour, raisins, dates, olive oil, and colored chocolate chips.Purim was celebrated with great joy, both in the shul and in the school, with a full day program at the school for the entire community. I can’t post too many pictures now, as I’m currently working on two half computers. My desktop is loaded with viruses, and until it’s fixed, is not connected to the internet. The majority of the pictures are in that computer. I’m working on my laptop, which isn’t accepting CDs, and the (new) USB port doesn’t work (nor does the sound, but that’s a separate issue.) So until we get the computer act together somehow, there are only a few pics that I already have in my gmail.Anyway – we started by reading Megillas Esther in school, followed by the distribution of mishloach manos packages and an explanation of the mitzvos of Purim, which everyone then participated in. I would especially like to thank the generous people in America and in England who donated the candies, which we used for mishloach manos. Children and grown-ups alike were delighted with them. Every year it's a challenge to come up with a costume for my husband, which hides his beard, so he won't immediately be identified. This year, he was a great scarecrow, as you can see above. We invited the teenagers from Sochnut to participate in the Purim program, and they presented an interesting Purim shpiel. This was followed by the costume contest, and a carnival full of exciting games and contests, and topped off by a delicious Purim seudah, prepared by Baila and company.From Purim, we rolled right into pre-Pesach preparations. Of course, just about anything could beat last year! Last year was the Pesach to beat all Pesachs! That’s when TWO fridges broke, TWO self-cleaning American ovens broke, TWO kitchen cabinets disintegrated (all after lengthy cleaning, of course,) and TWO helpers were each out sick for TWO days. In the middle of all this (I believe I was running out to find new kitchen cabinets,) Yoel called me from Borispol airport in Kiev to tell me that he was having problems in customs. Stupidly, I responded that this is the least of my problems. Hashem let me know! All of our Pesach supplies, packed up in 14 large U-Haul boxes, and with two large bottles of wine per box, were supposed to be divided up between four of my boys. Three were coming on Sunday, with Yoel following on Wednesday. When the first three arrived at the airport in New York, (and this had actually been pre-arranged for once,) Aerosvit’s computers were down, and they couldn’t find the arrangements. So they suggested that all 14 boxes should go with Yoel on Wednesday, at a discounted fare. When Yoel and his boxes arrived in Borispol, it was like someone waving a red kerchief in the faces of the customs officials. Hey! Here comes a live one! I won’t go into all the gory details, but the customs, police, and successors to the KGB all got involved, and we did not get any of our Pesach supplies! Nor did Yoel get his clothing, as once they start confiscating, everything is included in one package deal! He had to pick up everything on the way back to New York, pay customs for storing it(!!!) pay for it to go back, and [...]

4th Letter from Crimea


B”HChabad of CrimeaMironova 24Simferopol, Crimea 95001 UkraineTel/fax: 380–652–510–773 e-mail Adar 15, 5756March 6, 1996Dear Everyone amush,Zdrastya! (That’s the shortened version of "hello." Soon you'll know Russian too!) How's everything out there? Actually, after ten months here, I got my first breath of freedom, when I visited Eretz Yisroel last month. It took a few days to get over the wonder that there are really still stores in the rest of the world, sunlight, grass, running water, constant electricity, modern appliances, etc., besides of course the kedusha of the land of Israel. I also got to read and hear the news from the better part of the year, so I'm not totally in the dark anymore (probably only 90%).When Itchie went to American last time (it sounds almost like Columbus!) I had to begin teaching. Classes are from 5:00–7:00, and the electricity goes out every day at 5:00. (It goes off four times daily — shacharis, mincha, maariv, and tikkun chatzos!) So, while I prepare bowls of chips to nosh on during the class, I also have to prepare kerosene lamps and candles. We had to open the window to breathe, until I discovered a portable rechargeable lamp in the market. Then I really pushed myself, and added a class Shabbos afternoon as well, learning a sicha on the parsha. We've already completed the entire course on kashrus. A number of families are now basically keeping kosher, but most need funds to kasher their kitchens. One family was about to make aliya, and had packed or sold everything already. The only thing left in their kvartira (apartment) was the table. I asked the older daughter how they were managing, and if I could help them? She shyly mentioned that they didn't have any food, and the thought of eating treife turned her stomach! (We just got a letter from her, and her younger sister is now, boruch Hashem, learning in a Lubavitch girls school in Yerushalayim.) We've learned about Moshiach, all kinds of blessings, prayer, and we have already covered a lot of the laws of Shabbos. Many people walk to us now on Shabbos, even from quite far away. One young man, who has been coming for only about a month, asked after havdalah if he could smoke now — he'd refrained from smoking for the entire Shabbos. Another newcomer proudly told us that this last week was the first full Shabbos he'd kept. Whatever we learn about, they put right into action (or inaction, as the case may be.) Next on the agenda is a class on Taharas Hamishpacha. We now have several classes daily.A few months ago, someone told us that there was an artist who wanted to meet us. He told us that although the artist is not Jewish, all of his paintings are on Jewish themes. When he came the first time, I didn't realize it was him, because I could see clearly that he was Jewish. After speaking to him, Itchie urged him to investigate his family's roots. It turns out that his parents escaped from Babi Yar, and decided not to let their children know that they were Jewish, to "spare them." He was originally a teacher of martial arts. After an accident which occurred on Shabbos, his Indian surgeon, who is married to a Jewish woman, told him about the concept of not working on Shabbos. At that point already, he ceased to work on Shabbos. He turned to art, and eventually to Jewish art. His paintings dwell on the theme of how through all these long years of exile and suffering, it is the Torah and mitzvos that keep Jews going, and it is this that will eventually bring us to the era of Moshiach. It's amazing that he didn't know he was Jewish until after he met us! Now he and his brother walk here every Shabbos, and stay for the shiur and to seek answers for their questions about Yiddishkeit.[...]

3rd Letter from Crimea


B”H Chabad of the CrimeaMironova 24Simferopol, Crimea 95001 UkraineTel/fax: 380–652–510–773e-mail chabadcrimea@cris.crimea.uaTishrei 24, 5756October 18, 1995Dear Everyone, a”mush,Zdrastvitsya (hi) again! A "gut yahr" to you all. Sukkos is over, and I must say that I'm glad to be able to breathe again after the rush of the yomim tovim.When Itchie went to America last time, we had just decided to make a day camp. Being that he, not I has always been the camper in the family, he considerately hired one of the university girls to organize it, so that I wouldn’t have to do it, and left. After a week of running around with her everywhere, showing her what to do, she called me up late one night to inform me that there was an emergency in her family and she was leaving Simferopol in two hours. That left the camp in my lap. (Itchie says I should thank G-d that something came along to take up "all my free time" so I wouldn't get bored.) I did thank G-d that Yuda Holtzberg, our bochur-in-residence, came back just then, and was able to help me make the arrangements for camp, since he is already fluent in Rusky yazik while I am considerably more adept in Anglisky. We placed ads in papers, on the radio, and on TV. By the way, prices here are the opposite of American prices, TV ads being the cheapest. Vitaly, our driver, laughed. "Everyone turns the TV off when the ads come on — you're wasting your money." We prayed that we'd have enough kids to make the camp. Two of the old men in the minyan signed up their grandchildren. After a few days we had all of four kids enrolled. I thought “Rebbe, please, we need more kids! We have a one to one camper/counselor ratio!” Suddenly, things began snowballing, with ten or so campers registering daily. Soon there were 50 campers signed up. Yuda said that I'd better stop registering kids because there wasn't going to be room for them in the camp "stolovaya" (dining room). I said, "Well, let's go to 60," figuring they'd stop coming by then. Meanwhile there was a second problem. Before organizing the camp, I had checked with other shluchim if it was alright to have the girls and boys together, and the consensus of opinion was that there was no problem under the age of bar mitzvah. However the girls in NY who would be coming as counselors called me to say that they felt that boys over nine years old should be separate. I wrote a letter to the Rebbe, and when I placed it into an Igros Kodesh at random, (a volume of printed answers to people from the Rebbe,) it opened to the following letter. "I was pleased to get your letter about how many boys and how many girls you have, and I'm sure that it will be just as good in quality as in quantity," and the Rebbe concluded with a brocha. There was our answer to both questions! We needed quality – Jewish quality (as the Rebbe had listed the girls and boys separately, and quantity. We drafted the bochurim, who had come to tutor our children, and made separate boys' division for boys 11 and older in the shul, while the rest of the camp was in the Abshiner Kultur (Jewish Cultural Organization) building, several blocks away. We registered 87 campers, most of whom had seen the ad on TV. So we ended up giving the Rebbe nachas with both quality and quantity!In my past two letters I may have insinuated that the entire Ukraine seems to be more than 50 years behind the free world. I owe my new home an apology. There are areas in which they are in fact much more advanced, and truly excel. One of those areas is in the development of Murphy's laws. Whereas, in America Murphy's law tells us, "Whatever can go wrong will," here Murphy's law assures us that "Whatever can't go wrong, will also go wrong!" For seve[...]

2nd Letter from Crimea


B”HChabad of the CrimeaMironova 24Simferopol, Crimea 95001 UkraineTel/fax: 380–652–510–773e-mail chabadcrimea@cris.crimea.uaJune 29, 1995Dear Everyone, a”mush,Hi again, from sunny Simferopol! It actually is quite warm and sunny for about half of the day. The remainder of the time, it's like the rainy season in Alabama (for those of you who may remember, when we lived there, I had questioned the validity of referring to Alabama as being in the “sunny South.”) Therefore, the load of wash which I started on Sunday sat in the bathtub until Friday, when in desperation I finally hung the shirts on the fan, one at a time, to dry. Half of the load got done, and the rest I have to rewash today! I do hope you're all well. This is my second attempt at this letter, as the computer ate the first one, so I hope it will be content, and this one fares better. It would be nice to hear from you. As far as we can determine, letters sent to us will probably be delivered to us here eventually, though it may take a number of weeks. IY"H after Tisha B’Av our new address will be Mironova 24. After Sunday, G-d willing, we will also be on the internet. (We're just not sure which Sunday.) In order for us to have food to eat, the first words poRusski that I learned were the names of foods. I can now write my shopping list in Russian. The main problem is that by the time I learn how to say something, it goes out of season! Take my favorite vegetable, mushrooms, for example. Every week they look different, as there are many species of wild mushrooms. One week I saw what appeared to me to be a form of mushroom. "Nyet, nyet champignons!" said Vitalik, my driver, pointing at the cute little things with reddish caps and yellow spongy undersides. But he had said the same thing the previous week about some really great mushrooms, so I bought them anyway. When I got back to the shul, I asked Reb Shimon about the "mushrooms." He warned me not to eat them, or we would get very sick. When I asked him if they were poisonous, he said, "No, but don't eat them." Vitalik offered to take them off my hands, as they are delicious. Reb Shimon replied that I should let Vitalik have them, as it would be better for him to fall asleep and not wake up, than for that to happen to me and the kids. Knowing that I usually have to take his advice with a grain or two of salt, I went to ask Bubba, our upstairs neighbor. She explained that this vegetable gets its nourishment from the air, and thus may have radiatzia from Chernobyl — but that it is truly delicious. I still didn't know what it was, and thinking that maybe it was truffles, I asked her if this was a French (Fransooski) food. "No, it grows in all countries," she answered. Well, I've never seen it in America, so if anyone knows what it is, please let us know. And yes, it is really delicious. The next week I was really in luck, I thought, as I spied some beautiful white cultivated looking mushrooms. I decided to check them Thursday night, to have a head start on cooking for Shabbos. But what did I find as I separated each cap from it stem? Yup! Zillions of worms — yech! Straight into the garbage! Together with the kilo of gorgeous cherries Itchie brought me, full of creepy critters. And by the next week there were no more mushrooms. Now I have to wait until the fall. By the way, we have other kinds of "fallout" as well. Camp organizer Natasha runs through the rain with a notebook to cover her hair. Why? There might be radiatzia in it. How can you know? Easy. Do you still have hair? And then there's the "fallout" in the market itself. First Sholom Ber got it on his arm, and then I got it on my back. Hint: Its source is the pige[...]

1st Letter from Crimea


B”HChabad of the CrimeaMironova 24Simferopol, Crimea 95001 UkraineTel/fax: 380–652–510–773Nissan 30, 5755April 30, 1995Dear Everyone, a”mush (ad meah v’esrim shana – till 120 years)I’m sorry; this is the only way I can manage to write to everyone. I hope everyone's well, had a great Pesach, has "recuperated," and still remembers us.I'll begin at the beginning. When we headed out to JFK three weeks ago, we had just found out that the travel agent had neglected to arrange for our slightly excessive baggage. At the airport, the airline insisted that they would not let us take any extra baggage. I was quite apprehensive that our rented van might be returning to Crown Heights together with us, and the truck full of our luggage, the very same evening. We were traveling with seven of our boys, 51 medium (read "large") U-Haul boxes, one oversize suitcase, twelve pieces of carry-on baggage, and a stroller. This was the absolute minimum INTO WHICH I could pack our belongings for our move to Simferopol, the capitol of Crimea (Krym.) One box per person for clothing and personal effects, the entire Pesach works, cases of paper goods for the holiday, milchig, fleishig, and pareve kitchenware for after Pesach, and as much toilet paper and Pampers as I could stuff in. With two daughters having served as camp counselors in the FSU, we knew we had to be prepared! We were running late, but a quick stop at the Ohel was necessary to ask the Rebbe for a brocha, and a big miracle regarding the luggage.Once at the airport, the porter started unloading our mountains of luggage. The people at the ticket desk were more than a little taken aback, to say the least. Itchie very nonchalantly handed them a letter, kindly provided by Lazer Avtzon, thanking the airline for any and all courtesies extended to us. They asked if this had been arranged ahead of time, since they had no prior knowledge of it. Itchie said he assumed it had been, he didn't know — "they'd" just given him the letter to present, and it was supposed to take care of all the overweight. I was off in a corner with the kids, all of us urgently saying Tehillim, and administering nose drops to clear stuffy noses, in the hopes that we would indeed soon board our plane. There was some running back and forth of supervisors, and passing out of "Good Cards," more Tehillim, and miracle of miracles, they only charged us for ten boxes, and no overweight, and believe me, there was plenty of that. (A week later, desperately short of money, we had someone wire funds into the account in New York, for our daughter Faigie to forward to us in Simferopol. It was a very hectic day for the banks, and it didn't get in until closing time. Faigie couldn't get out until the next morning to wire it to us. She worriedly asked, "What if another check comes in against it before I can get it out to you?" I told her I didn't think that could happen if she would be at the bank as soon as they opened. Sure enough, she called us, very upset, that a check had come in and the money was no longer available. But Boruch Hashem that check cleared, because it was the check for the airline, to cover the excess baggage! And Hashem saw to it that we got the money we needed from someone else, later in the day.)We were cleared to leave just before the gate was due to lock, and we raced through the airport to catch the plane. After playing musical chairs with half the passengers on the plane so most of our family members could be seated in close proximity to one another, I may have dozed off, because I really don't remember too much about the flight. In Paris we headed straight for the next plane. On board, I wor[...]

More Chanukah Pictures


Hi! I think I'm finally beginning to get the hang of this. In these pictures, you can see Alexander Markovich lighting the menorah the first evening, part of the crowd of over 100 that came to watch, and more of our Chanukah activities. Hope you enjoy! Leah [...]

My 1st post -- Chanukah 5767



Chanukah was very exciting. As usual, we lit the big menorah every day on the "ploshada" (square) in front of Privatbank, in the center of Simferopol. I'm pretty sure ours is the tallest menorah in Europe. We have a daily raffle, "ponchiki" (jelly donuts,) and Chanukah gelt is distributed to everyone.

Every day at Bais Menachem we had a special program, with all sorts of contests, for the kids, culminating in "ponchiki," lovingly made by Beila and her crew, chocolate Chanukah gelt, donated by Ruti, and the lighting of the school menorah. Of course everyone at the school, and hundreds in the community, received free menorahs and candles.

We had three teams participating in the annual "Intellect Cafe," and the staff of Bais Menachem won a prize. We also made a Chanukah party for the community, where the kids from Bais Menachem presented their productions.
The shul was really full on Chanukah as well, with many new people coming after the menorah lighting, Boruch Hashem! We are glad to welcome all of our new members! After davening, we all shared the joyful Shabbos seudos together, with a full meals, as usual, and the special addition of latkes and still more "ponchiki" -- thanks cousin Stuie for the delicious filling for them!
This is my first attempt at blogging, so I hope this goes easily and the pictures also arrive to the blog. I"YH I'm hoping to post some of our previous pictures as well, working backwards, as I find the time.

(image) Paka! Leah