When Milana Feldman was growing up in Pyatigorsk, Russia, “borders” was a concept to be reckoned with.
It takes a visionary to see beyond seemingly impenetrable borders, and Rabbi Okunov, who founded FREE in 1968 at the behest of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, says the Rebbe “truly broke the borders” between Russian and American Jewry, by laying the groundwork for a Russian-Jewish community in America long before that seemed viable.
Hershel Okunov was a yeshiva student, newly arrived from Russia, in 1968 when he met with the Rebbe for a private audience. Okunov lost no time in setting up initial meetings and committees for the fledgling organization, guided every step of the way by the Rebbe’s personal instructions. Okunov, assisted by his then-teenaged sons, helped the family find jobs and get settled in the neighborhood.
The center offers various ongoing educational activities for children, including an after-school program, Shabbat program, Sunday outings, and a recently opened preschool. Also on the program was a video presentation of a talk delivered by the Rebbe at a Lag B’omer parade in 1980, where the Rebbe spoke in Russian and directed his comments to an international audience.
They especially dreaded forced military conscription, which often saw thousands of young men carried off to distant wars with little or no warning. Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. Immigrant faces, poems & epitaphs are laser-etched on black granite at Washington Cemetery in Midwood, Brooklyn.

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Under the tight grip of the Soviet Union, even small children understood that there were certain borders that were absolute and impenetrable- the iron curtain, for one. For people like Milana Feldman, and her father, Isaac Lieberman, who struggled for years to bring his family over to the United States, Sunday night’s concert confirmed that the borders they once thought were impassable are clearly a thing of the past.
In the course of the meeting, the Rebbe requested that he undertake the founding of an organization for Soviet Jewry in America, in preparation for a large influx of Jews from Eastern Europe. Like most of Russian Jewry, Milana’s family knew little about Judaism, but they were very grateful to meet up with a Rabbi who knew Russian, the only language they spoke at the time. Daily and Shabbat Minyanim are well attended, as are annual holiday events such as grand public Chanukah celebration and a Sukkot Festival on the Brighton Beach Boardwalk, attended by close to 2000 people last year.
Emphasizing G-d’s protection of Jews everywhere, the Rebbe invoked the right of every Jew to study and practice Judaism, a right which he insisted was legally upheld by the Soviet constitution. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived.

In Brighton Beach, an area predominantly occupied by Russian immigrant families, FREE serves the material and spiritual needs of thousands adjusting to a new life in America.
The choir won first place in an international contest in Germany last year, and Rabbi Okunov says they were a major draw for Sunday night’s “Music Without Borders” event. Rather, by making “death” […] Pope Francis, Erich Przywara, and the Idea of Europe May 12, 2016Last Friday, on May 6, Pope Francis was awarded the Charlemagne Prize, which is conferred annually by the city of Aachen, Germany, upon persons who in one way or another represent European ideals and contribute to European integration.
But last week, at a concert named “Music Without Borders: Moscow-New York 2004” Milana and her family joined over 600 fellow Russian-Jewish immigrants who turned out to hear the Moscow Synagogue Choir and “M Generation” --a local boys choir in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. Their performance alongside nine members of the internationally acclaimed Moscow Synagogue Choir made for a “spectacular concert,” he says.
When those people would arrive, the Rebbe said, they would need an organization to assist them in settling in the U.S. Eventually, the Rebbe continued, people would be arriving in large numbers from various countries in Eastern Europe and even central Russia.

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