Former Campers Return to Inspire Next Generation in Kharkov

Communists forbade them to study Torah and now their children are teaching Torah to a new generation.

Zalman Antomonenko, Efraim Kolpak and Michoel Manochins’ parents lived under a Communist regime.They would never have believed that their sons would be running a Gan Yisrael camp in their hometown Kharkov .

All three boys were students of the Or Avner Day school in Kharkov and Yeshiva. As campers in Gan Yisrael, they always dreamed of coming back to giving back to others what they received from the Jewish community. They went on to study in Yeshiva in Moscow.The whole year they have been preparing for camp…raising money for prizes and candies and working on a fun Jewish program that would campers a great time in a Jewish atmosphere.

Camp director Rabbi Yaakov Yakimenko, himself a former camper of Gan Yisrael Kharkov, sees a double success this year “When the campers see counselors who just a few years ago were campers just like them, fully embracing Yiddishkeit and with such energy ad enthusiasm wanting to give back to others- the gain is for everyone and the whole community”

Thanks to the generous help of the FJC-Or Avner, camp was a possibility despite the tremendous economic collapse in Ukraine.

The girls’ camp was run by Shoshana and Devorah Leah Moskovitz together with local Kharkov girls. Already during camp, girls signed up for the Jewish day school and got Jewish names.

Rabbi Moishe Moskovitz started the first summer camp 25 years ago, and Gan Yisrael is still going strong. In the early years. counselors flew in from America and Israel, but for the past years the boys and girls camps are run by locals. Many of the past Kharkov counselors are now married and on shlichus in all corners of the world, and their places are taken by enthusiastic counselors like Zalman, Ephraim and Michoel.

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