WHEN TIKVA OPENED ITS ARMS TO 10 JFS STUDENTS
With the tag line ‘giving donations means giving the orphans hope to have a future’ the charity Tikva Odessa is acknowledged worldwide as a having the ability “to literally save a child’s life”. With the cold sub-zero and fingertips freezing, 9 year 13 students had to consciously remind themselves this was not a school trip for them. Instead, it was for the 180 orphans they were soon to meet. What imprint these students were going to have on their lives was in their bitter hands.
After being accompanied by a slice of Tikva Odessa’s outstanding trustees, Golders Green finest Ruth and Sydney Faber, the JFS students began their trip around Odessa: seeing both the devastation of the country after the fall of The USSR and contrastingly the amazing works of this charity. They set the tone for the trip after greeting us with a heartfelt welcome stating “We are your grandparents for the trip- as we are for the 180 other orphans here at Tikva”.
The upbeat and high impact trip was symbolic of Tikva’s grand achievements since being “born” in 1993 due to “the reality of the amount of Jewish homeless children in Odessa” ,meant that Rabbi Baksht (founder of Tikva) had “no other choice” but to help those who were less fortunate than himself. The modest yet outstanding ethos that all the students acknowledged when visiting Tikva’s site, gave thought to the replicated parental role this charity formed in the education, finance, and social welfare departments of a child’s life.
When Ukraine was left corrupt after the Communist era, Tikva’s Jewish orphans had fallen through the cracks in Ukrainian society.
The difference between the 10 JFS students and the 180 orphans was slim: One different decision somewhere down the ancestral tracks now wedged a massive difference in their lives today. The trip was an attempt to destroy this wedge of difference and to reconnect Jewish children around the world. Maya Benson, year 13 JFS student commented that “After we visited all three orphanages, the infants and separate boys and girls home, I felt a sense of accomplishment that I had formed, hopefully, a lasting relationship with many of the Jewish children”. Lily Hassel, another JFS student excitedly interrupted “Yes, but we didn’t just visit the orphanages. Tikva’s help stems further than just providing a home for these underprivileged children. It’s everything Jewish in Odessa”.
The JFS coach travelled from top to toe of Odessa, visiting the orphanages, synagogues, university, and community shops all under the mighty reign of Tikva. “But,” Abel Leaman commented when asked ‘Which of the children’s home did you most connect with’, “I think what helped me connect with each home was after seeing the horrifying living standards and the drunken mother that a particular infant was rescued from. Seeing his background connected everything back to the reason why we all went on the trip in the first place. To raise awareness.”
Leaving behind both bundles of gifts collected from donations, to the endless amount of friendships formed, the JFS students all concluded that if one phrase were to optimise the trip, it would be: ‘To the future, of us as members of the Tikva family’.