web analytics
January 25, 2015 / 5 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


The Ultimate Title Match


Gros-041312-Letzion-BRina

Pesach is the time of redemption and salvation, which can often come from the most unexpected sources. Such is the story of a boxing title fight in Yankee Stadium that launched a young boy from Russia on a journey to discover his Jewish heritage in Israel.

Following the fall of the Iron Curtain, Jews streamed out of the Soviet Union heading to greener pastures, especially Israel and America. They succeeded in rebuilding their lives, but seven decades of religious persecution left them ignorant of even the most fundamental tenets of Judaism.

In December 1990 the Karliner Rebbe of Jerusalem took note of the problem. One Wednesday he called in Rabbi Moshe Weiss, the Mashgiach of the Karliner Yeshiva. He gave him an ambitious mission – to start a high school for Russian Jewish boys. His deadline – that Sunday morning.

After picking himself up off of the floor, Rabbi Weiss began to meet the challenge. He found a building in Bayit Vegan, borrowed tables and chairs from a nearby school and put ads in Russian language newspapers. At first a trickle of students joined.

The school, the Lezion B’rina Institute, now has a beautiful sprawling campus in Beitar. Its students study religious subjects in the morning and secular subjects in the afternoon. They come from homes with little knowledge of Judaism and all graduate with a greater appreciation of their religion.

Hundreds of students have passed through the school’s doors and many have become observant. Following graduation they go on to join the IDF, yeshivos gedolos or trade schools and universities in Israel. An affiliated girls’ school located in Jerusalem, Bat Zion, has similarly helped many Russian girls.

In 2010 the entire student body of Lezion B’rina, and every Russian home throughout the world, had one name on their lips: boxer Yuri Foreman. He grew up in Gomel, the second-largest Jewish community in Belarus. As a young boy he realized his fighting skills could keep anti-Semitic bullies away. He soon discovered that his agility and boxing prowess could become a career as well.

Rabbi Josh Friedman of Lezion B'rina with boxer Yuri Foreman

Yuri moved first to Israel and then to Brooklyn. He trained and entered the professional circuit in 2002. He quickly moved up the ranks, remaining undefeated in 29 fights. At the same time he was becoming observant. Along the way he made a commitment to never fight on Shabbat. That personal pledge, combined with his Jewish pride that he literally wears (in the form of a Magen David on his boxing shorts), made him an inspiration for Jews around the world.

Rabbi Josh Friedman is a graduate of Yeshiva University and the Director of Development of Lezion B’rina. He saw Yuri as an amazing role model for the students of the school and the two men struck up a very warm friendship.

On June 5, 2010 Yuri had his big fight in Yankee Stadium for the Middleweight Division title. It made him a household name throughout many Russian communities. The fight was later than usual on a Saturday night and Yuri spent Shabbat in a nearby hotel.

The students of Lezion B’rina produced a video wishing Yuri success in his fight. On the Thursday before the match Rabbi Friedman e-mailed him the video.

Yuri e-mailed him back later that day to thank him for the chizuk before his fight. Though he would go on to lose the match, he has remained a favorite son to Russian Jews. He has continued on his own path of Jewish growth and is currently studying for smicha.

Outside Moscow lived a young Jewish boy named Sasha. He knew he was Jewish and was proud to be so, but knew very little about his religion. And so when Yuri Foreman came on the scene, he fanned the spark of Jewish pride in Sasha.

Sasha, a student at Lezion B'rina

One day, shortly after the big fight, Sasha was searching on the Internet for any information he could find on Yuri. He stumbled across the video produced by the boys of Lezion B’rina on the school’s website. He had never heard of the school. The video touched him, and when at the end when the video there appeared an e-mail address for Misha Ziloniy, the head of recruitment for the school, Sasha e-mailed him for more information about the video and Lezion B’rina.

Misha travels frequently throughout the former Soviet Union to meet potential students and their families, and to run seminars about how Lezion B’rina and Bat Lezion are providing students with a brighter future. On his next trip to Moscow he arranged a meeting with Sasha who jumped at the chance to travel to Israel to learn more about his heritage. He was accepted and has been a student in Lezion B’rina ever since. He is quickly advancing on his journey to discover more of his Jewish identity.

About the Author: Michael Gros writes from Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. The Teshuva Journey column chronicles uplifting teshuva journeys and inspiring kiruv tales. To read more articles and sign up to receive them via email, visit http://www.michaelgros.com


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Ultimate Title Match”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Michael Ben-Ari launches his Otzma party election campaign.
A Yishai–Ben-Ari Mashup Would Hurt Bayit Yehudi, but No Mashup Will be Even Worse
Latest Judaism Stories

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

More Articles from Michael Gros

In 1992 the Dallas Cowboys won Super Bowl XXVII. Among the members of the team was a young Jewish man named Alan Veingrad. Alan, now Shlomo, became frum several years later and found a much more significant calling: as an in-demand speaker he captivates Jewish and non-Jewish audiences around the world with lessons from his football days and from his teshuva journey.

Twenty-five years ago, when kiruv was still a relatively new concept, a group of four young rabbis left Ner Yisrael with families in tow to head down south to Atlanta, Georgia. Rabbi David Silverman was one of those pioneers who founded the Atlanta Scholars Kollel. He is a powerhouse of kiruv – his charisma, sincerity and broad knowledge have helped him inspire thousands of Jews, including this writer.

You never know what event will spark a person’s desire to return to Judaism. Art Sherman was an assimilated Jew married to a Polish Catholic woman. He owned a non-kosher Italian “hero sandwich shop” and an unbelievable comment, one day by his Rastafarian employee, sent him on a life-changing journey.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/judaism-101/the-ultimate-title-match/2012/04/17/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: