He knew nothing about his heritage or religion. When Rabbi German sat down to begin teaching him the Aleph-Bais, those nearby were astounded. Within an hour, Victor was able to read both Hebrew and Rashi fluently. Seeing the need to stimulate him on a higher level, Rabbi German arranged for a chavrusah from Yeshivas Chaim Berlin to learn with Victor. From there he progressed to Yeshiva Ohr Somayach, and then the Boston Kollel where he learned and thrived while simultaneously attending MIT. By the time he was twenty-one, Victor had earned his doctorate. Despite his prestigious degrees in academia, Victor, today R’ Avigdor, chooses to spend his days learning at the kollel of Yeshivas Chaim Berlin. A year after the passing of Rebbetzin Leya German a”h, principal of the school, Avigdor and his wife, Chana gave birth to a baby girl whom they named Leya in memory of Rebbetzin German.
Coming Full Circle
When Soviet Jewry arrived on these shores, they were far removed from the Judaism that their ancestors had practiced devoutly. Without activism and intervention, these immigrants would have assimilated. Be’er Hagolah saw it as a mission to reconnect these children with the heritage that Communism had cruelly ripped away from them. “We’re bringing them back to where their grandparents were before the onset of Communism,” asserts Rabbi German. “When the history of American Jewry will be written, Be’er Hagolah will be there as a chapter heading.”
Miriam Kariyev Peykar, an alumnus who today works as an occupation therapist from Queens, New York, says “Be’er Hagolah was definitely the school and the place that took us away from assimilation and brought us back to our heritage.”
“What the school really helped me do, is to develop a very strong feeling of belonging, an identity and love of being Jewish,” remarks Igor Lempert. “I see guys from my class, including myself, who are taking the steps to becoming more observant.”
“I am married to a wonderful person,” says Dr. Natalie Maryanovsky Zelenko, who graduated in 1996. “And together we have built a home based on Torah values… I think,” continues Natalie, “That the most striking way of measuring how much impact Be’er Hagolah has had on our lives, is to ask my husband. I have heard him tell people that BHI has changed his life. Having come to Torah Judaism through his relationship with me, he attributes every aspect of his Judaism today to Be’er Hagolah. And I know, that for every [tefillah] that he prays, for every Shabbos and Shabbos guest, for every daf of Gemarah , the credit is Be’er Hagolah’s.”
Dr. Zelenko sums it up best, “When an institution can affect changes in the lives of young people, like my husband, who have never stepped through its doors, you know that it and the people who dedicate their lives to it, are truly extraordinary.”