Tuvia Book
Author, educator, Tour-Guide, artist

Two teens raise more than $40K for Ukrainian Refugees

Two American students who are on their gap year in Israel have raised more than $40K for Ukrainian refugees.  Shmuli Vladimirskiy, from Chicago IL, and Eitan Kastner, from Valley Stream NY, are both studying at Aish HaTorah Gesher program.  First-year student, Shmuli’s father was born in Ukraine.  The Principal of Aish, Rabbi Berkowitz, gave the students an impassioned speech of how it was incumbent on everyone to help out during the crisis in Ukraine and every Jew is responsible for the whole world.

Eitan Kastner (left) and Shmuli Vladimirskiy (right) students at Aish HaTorah Gesher program in Jerusalem. photo (c) Eitan Kastner, 2022

Shmuli was galvanized into action and contacted a Rabbi in Ukraine to ask how he could help.  The Rabbi responded that the best way was to raise money to help the refugees.  Together with Eitan, a second-year student at Gesher, they realized that a lot of organizations are focused on helping the refugees flee war-torn Ukraine, however very few people are worrying about the thousands of refugees once they arrive in Israel, some of them with literally the shirts on their backs.  They decided that this would be their area of focus.  Once Eitan heard about Shmuli’s project he knew right away he had to join.  He said that,

At Aish HaTorah we learn that every person has a responsibility to the entire world.  So, after discovering that there was very little help for the refugees in once they arrived in Israel we organized money, jobs and help for as many refugees as we could help here in Israel

Shmuli, is a contributor on an Instagram account called, @JewishBreakingNews, which is the largest Jewish news outlet on Instagram, was sharing images from the refuges and that what’s really helped galvanize the campaign.  The site reached, in Shmuli’s words,

Thousands of people, and we were able to raise a lot of money using that tool.  Now here in Israel friends and families are sharing images of what we are doing and that just helps bring in more money and more awareness of what’s going on here.  As a student at Aish’s incredible Gesher program in Jerusalem, I have been instilled with the responsibility to help our fellow Jews. After hearing the plights of these Jews, I could not comfortably continue on with my day.

Eitan was inspired by Shmuli, who had already set up a fundraising website, and heard that there was an immediate opportunity as there was a plane going to Ukraine to set up a field hospital.  They sprang into action and raised thousands of dollars from their friends in gap-year programs and got thousands of diapers and other supplies on the plane.  After that, in Eitan’s own words, (from an interview I conducted with him) he said,

We realized how much we could do, especially with the Yeshiva/Seminary community.  We made four group chats of 250 people each on WhatsApp, which we have raise tens of thousands of dollars from.  In addition, whenever we have a job to help the Ukrainian refugees in Israel), we put it into the chat, and they sign up for it and that way we get hundreds of jobs done.  It’s really amazing.  We’re doing God’s work.

They, and their volunteer corps have engaged in many social welfare activities for hundreds of refugees, such as, taking families out for Birthday parties, first visits to the Western Wall, getting supplies for families that have nothing.  They also ran a Purim carnival with help of their volunteers. In addition, they have mobilized their veritable army of volunteer gap year students to go and provide supplies and to spend time with the Ukrainian refugees.

Seminary students bringing vital supplies to an elderly Ukrainian recent refugee arrival. Photo (c) Eitan Kastner, 2022

Eitan, is an alumnus of the Write On for Israel program, The program is for American high school juniors and seniors from the Tri-State area.  It is a highly regarded two-year Israel advocacy course aimed at preparing the participants for the anti-Israel battleground of the North American college world.  They receive the knowledge and tools to be effective advocates for the Jewish State.  They also learn the importance of social action and how Israel is a world leader at this.  The Talmud teaches us that, “he who save one life it is as if they have saved an entire universe.”  Israel strives to be a “light unto the nations.”  Daniel Gordis succinctly summed it up when he stated that, in addition to striving for the benefit our own citizens,

This country has become a country, with all of its imperfections, that sees as part of its purpose as looking out for other people.

Volunteers entertain and feed Ukrainian refugees on the roof of the Aish HaTorah building. Photo (c) Eitan Kastner, 2022

Both Shmuli and Eitan have taken this message of “Tikkun Olam” to heart and most importantly, acted on it.  They did not say, “we are just two teenagers, what can we do?”  They said, “We are two teenagers, and we are goings to do something!”

The tax-deductible donation link to support Shmuli and Eitans’s work is:

About the Author
Dr. Tuvia Book was born in London and raised in both the UK and South Africa. After making Aliya at the age of 17 and studying in Yeshiva he volunteered for the IDF, where he served in an elite combat unit. Upon his discharge he completed his BA at Bar-Ilan University, as well as certification in graphic design. He then served as the Information Officer at the Israeli Consulate of Philadelphia, while earning a graduate degree in Jewish Studies. Upon his return to Israel, Dr. Book graduated from a course of study with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and is a licensed tour guide. Tuvia has been working in the field of Jewish Education, both formal and informal, for many years. He has guided and taught Jewish students and educators from around the English-speaking world for some of Israel’s premier educational institutions and programs. Tuvia has been guiding groups for Birthright Israel since its inception and, in addition, has lectured throughout North America, Australia, Europe and South Africa. Tuvia served as a Shaliach (emissary) for the Jewish Agency for Israel as the Director of Israel and Zionist Education at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (Jewish Education Project). He was a lecturer/educational guide at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education (AMIIE) in Israel for a decade. Tuvia has lectured at both Bar Ilan University and Hebrew University. He was a Senior Editor and Teaching Fellow at the Tikvah Fund. He is a research associate at the Hudson Institute. Tuvia is the author and illustrator the internationally acclaimed Israel education curriculum; "For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Studies" (Fifth edition, Koren 2017), and "Moral Dilemmas of the Modern Israeli Soldier" (Rama, 2011) and has a doctorate in Israel Education. His latest book, "Jewish Journeys, The Second Temple Period to the Bar Kokhba Revolt – 536 BCE-136 CE," was published by Koren this year. To order:
Related Topics
Related Posts