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Gifting the Word of God

Yael Eckstein with Russian Bible

October 17, 2018

Exactly a year ago, an idea was born. Today, that idea has become a tangible blessing for the Jewish people.

It all started last year when I visited Ukraine. The goal of my journey was to bring food, medicine, and warmth to Jewish Holocaust survivors in need. The sights I saw in Ukraine were horrifying. Holocaust survivors are living out their final years in abject poverty. They have to weather the brutal winter alone -- without heat, without electricity, and in many cases, without sufficient food and medicine.

As they say, “seeing is believing,” so I shared photos and videos with Fellowship supporters and friends back in America. I wanted people to grasp the difficult reality that these elderly Jews live with. I wanted people to see and hear their cries for help. I also wanted to share the joy on their faces when they receive our lifesaving aid. I wanted our partners to witness the meaningful difference that they have made in the lives of these Holocaust survivors, who are otherwise all alone.

One woman, Dana, was particularly moved by the plight of the elderly Jews in Ukraine. She got in touch with me and said that she wanted to do something to help the elderly Jews but she didn’t know what. After praying about it for some time, Dana had an idea. She wanted to provide elderly Jews from Ukraine and Russia with audio Bibles, the Five Books of Moses, which they could then listen to whenever they felt lonely or forgotten. They could find solace in the Word of God.

I absolutely loved Dana’s idea. Ultimately, after we researched what it would take to make this idea come to fruition, we realized that audio Bibles were not an option for those who we help in the Ukraine and Russia. They don’t have electricity, not even running water. So instead, we decided to create a special Bible for these Jews. We printed the Five Books of Moses in Hebrew with translations in Russian and Ukrainian.

This alone is a huge blessing for the Jewish people.

But we weren’t done with Dana’s idea just yet. Dana wanted to distribute audio Bibles to older men and women who had immigrated from the Ukraine or Russia to Israel. These elderly also need assistance and encouragement as they try to settle in Israel without knowing Hebrew and without any family or friends.

Last week, Dana’s idea became reality as she gifted audio Bibles to 50 new immigrants from Ukraine and Russia. It was extremely emotional for me to watch the faces of these precious people, who have already gone through so many difficulties, light up when they were given the audio Bible.

We will always help the elderly with their basic needs, such as food, medicine, and warmth – both in Israel and in Ukraine and Russia. But as I watched Dana distribute the Bibles, I heard the words of the prophet Amos in my head: “The days are coming…when I will send a famine through the land-- not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord” (8:11).

For decades the Jews of Ukraine and Russia were denied access to their religion, traditions, and texts. There was indeed a famine in the land – “a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.” Thankfully, Dana recognized that it’s not enough to care for a person’s physical body; we must also nurture their soul.

In Loving Memory of Rabbi Yecheil Eckstein 1951-2019

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