I have just returned from our talmud shiur's trip to Israel, Kiev and Prague.Our group 23 in all,toured the negev quite extensively.Our two previous trips were dedicated to the North,and the areas of Yehuda and Shomrom.
Last year we presented a sefer torah to the Israeli navy at Ashdod.This year we were pleased to present a portable x-ray machine to Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem.
Among the speakers who visited with our group were Wendy Singer, head of the AIPAC office in Israel, and the noted author Yossi Klein Halevy.
From Israel (after eight days) we flew to Kiev.I have been to Ukraine a number of times.With the election of Yushenko as President ,the people have a greater feeling of freedom.Jewish life is making a valiant effort to revive itself.There are 600 Jewish cultural and religious organizations in the country.
In addition , the country boasts of three Chief Rabbis.Two of them are Chabad and although on the surface all is peaceful between the groups, it is not difficult to discern a tension and competition in the air.
Aliyah has slowed and as in outher countries of the FSU ,the majority of those making aliyah are not halachic Jews.Although the Jewish schools including Chabad would like to attract only halachic Jews as students,it is only the OU in Kharkov that sticks to that position 100%