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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Tuesday, September 26, 2017

On Sunday night, June 25, Chazaq advanced what must be its defining and primary function of building a strong Jewish future. I was invited to attend a room filled with representatives from ten different schools. The night’s motif: “Chazaq reclaims Jewish children attending a public education devoid of our proud and rich heritage”. As I entered the room and encountered the welcome desk, I saw smiling staff and sensed excited “shoppers”. The atmosphere totally occluded the nature of the night’s merchandise, the souls of a generation of Bukharian Jewry. 

I saw parents enthusiastically mulling about scanning presentations and brochures. I can only wonder what attracted them here. Was it the opportunity to afford quality Jewish education? Was it a desire to raise children in the path of their ancestors? Maybe they heard of Chazaq’s reputation and were simply curious.  Whatever the case, the turnout demonstrated that Chazaq would successfully provide many Jewish children with opportunities they otherwise might never have had.

All the schools at the event presented attractive incentives for the parents. Some offered an interdisciplinary education while boasting a diverse student body. Others focused on lavishing students with special personal attention within small classes and a student-centered adaptive methodology. Some schools emphasized their prowess for offering development in computer programming and app creation.  Other schools wanted parents to truly feel that their children were cared for as individuals and guided through the normal social and emotional fluctuations of growing up. After personally interviewing representatives from all of the attending schools, it seemed to me that Chazaq invited schools satisfying almost any parental consideration.

But the night was truly meant for the children. I noticed a boy around the age of nine or ten sitting by a table and playing with some snacks he procured from Chazaq’s refreshments table. He was playing with a half-eaten pretzel as though it were a boomerang. His vivid imagination made me recall my own childhood and upbringing. I was given the opportunity to go to yeshiva even though my parent’s family was unaccustomed to paying for education in Communist Russia. Yet even with a Jewish upbringing, I felt the push and pull in a sea of contradicting social values: Modesty and reserve vs. exaggerated pretentiousness; kindness and concern vs. selfishness etc. The bright and attracting lights would flash from all directions, beckoning me and my peers towards society’s values and lifestyles. 

Whether or not we were conscious of it, our surrounding culture forced us to choose between all types of antipodal qualities. In the midst of all this, most of us held on to what we were taught. Sadly however, many of my peers left their Judaism and adopted lifestyles with no connection to their rich heritage. It occurred to me that the boy sitting here may never have had the opportunity to inherit his birthright if Chazaq had not endeavored. The night’s event will undoubtedly open for him and many other children storerooms and treasure chests passed from generation to generation.

A little while later, I watched a young man walk up to the desk of an organization which subsidizes yeshiva tuition costs for children transferring out of public school. His body language exuded a certain resolve as he made his way over to the organization’s representative. He gave her what seemed to be a very considerable sum of money folded up inconspicuously. I heard him thank the representative as he explained that he once attended public school until he was given an opportunity to have a Jewish education with the help of a very generous benefactor. By giving back to the organization, he was helping the next generation receive the same cherished gift. I didn’t ask him, but I was sure the young man was cognizant of what can stand in the balance of one man’s contribution; a different life, a different reality.  

Towards the end of the event, a great Talmid Chacham and Rav came over to me and expressed how much he deliberated coming that night. The event’s time slot clashed directly with his own congregation’s Drasha (discourse) and he decided to ask his Chavrutah (colleague) to substitute teaching in his place.  Knowing him personally, I can tell you that he is not the type to lightly forego any sort of Limud Torah (Torah study). He made it clear to me that by the end of the night he decided that not only was he happy to have attended, but that he would gladly make such a trade again. He must have sensed an intoxicating scent reminiscent of Torah and Gan Eden; a satisfying spiritual aroma congruent with performing Hashem’s will. 

Is there anything else worth reporting? What else can I say about such an event? I came with a general idea that here was Chazaq once again helping the community. I left with a firm conviction that here is Chazaq building a strong Jewish future.

By:  Adam Suionov