200 supporters joined for the annual FREE of Sydney, Australia Gala Dinner, marking one year of the successful Soup Kitchen.
Close to 200 supporters joined for the annual FREE of Sydney, Australia Gala Dinner 2013.
The dinner celebrated one year of FSK (FREE Soup Kitchen), launched in June of 2012, a project which has blossomed very quickly.
This year was different from the past as most of the participants were young adults from the Russian community in Sydney.
One year ago, almost to the day, a group of young adults got together and decided that the time has come for a dramatic change in the way the youth of our society view the idea of giving.
Encouraging and motivating today’s sound-bite wise and witty youth was no simple task, but the FREE soup kitchen was created and designed as a modern front and rebrand for the good old Mitzva of Tzedaka - charity.
Rabbi Eli Schlanger, director of FREE Soup Kitchen, related a moving story of Divine Providence which occurred with the volunteers:
"On one of our visits to the inner city housing commission, we met Hirsh, a 97 year old man who lived alone in a tiny unit. The elderly man was hard of hearing and had difficulty understanding what we wanted from him. After I asked him to speak with me in yiddish his tone quickly changed and he welcomed us in.
"During our visit we spoke about his life in Russia and of his family that perished in the holocaust. Hirsh put on teffilin for the first time in decades, perhaps the first time since his bar mitzva, and with tears in his eyes he sang the old yiddish song of Oifin Pripechik.
"As our visit came to an end, Hirsh could not stop thanking us for bringing him back to his pure and youthful days - from the shtettle.
"A few weeks went by and by pure Divine Providence we found ourselves handing out soup in the very same spot. As we approached Hirshel's unit we were saddened by the sight of a removal company removing his last household items.
“I believe that the timing of Hirshel's passing was no coincidence, rather, after years of pain and suffering he was waiting to do that last mitzvah of putting on teffilin and making a blessing over the delicious soup we had together. Only then was he at peace with his completed mission in this world," said Rabbi Schlanger.
Inspired by this story, more than 15 young members of the community became a solid unit of volunteers who now email and text daily with fresh ideas and strategies to perfect their special project, the FREE soup kitchen.
"FSK takes the responsibility to find and hunt out those in need," explained Schlanger. "We will not wait for them to come to us - If there is someone out there hungry for physical or spiritual soup, we will make it our life mission to find them."
An inspiring video of the work of FSK was shown to the crowd with Reb Hirshel at the end singing oifen priperchik.
Gabrielle Upton, Member of the NSW Legislative Assembly for Vaucluse, and Parliamentary Secretary for Tertiary Education and Skills presented a check to FREE for a grant of $45,000 to strengthen and beautify the structure of the community centre and synagogue.
Rabbi Ulman thanked Gabrielle for this wonderful grant which means so much to the community.
Rabbi Ulman said, “It is so heartwarming that the children of those who helped my wife and I to establish FREE 27 years ago are now practising their
parents’ values of selflessness and commitment to the work of the
community as well as to those that are less fortunate within it.”
Performer Ben Goldstein was the surprise guest entertainer, who recently became extremely well known from his debut on The Voice TV program of Australia. Ben sang three songs and was applauded by the crowd.
A special thank you to a few of the many volunteers and staff at FSK - Eli Rice, Shmully Ulman, Tanya Keyser, Milli Shegan and Stephanie Knafelman.