Simxa Company Conducts Another Successful Shabbaton


Simxa Company Conducts Another Successful Shabbaton

Yehudis Litvak

Simxa Company, a non-profit organization dedicated to educational outreach to Jews of Russian background, conducted its 17th annual shabbaton over Thanksgiving weekend. As usual, the shabbaton was a smashing success. This year’s audience included not only Russian Jews, but those of American, Persian, and Israeli backgrounds.

The Russian lectures were conducted in parallel with the English lectures, so there was always something for everyone. Among Russian lecturers was Rabbi Aryeh Katzin, director of Russian American Jewish Experience (RAJE) and principal of Sinai Academy in New York. Rabbi Katzin is a popular speaker who always draws full rooms of attentive listeners. This year, he spoke about the attitude of gratitude and finding the positive even when things seem dark. On Shabbos, he spoke to all the attendees in English, captivating them with stories of his youth in the Soviet Union. Rabbi Katzin also led a trip to the Huntington Library Botanical Gardens, where he taught Torah surrounded by beautiful natural scenery.

Other Russian-speaking lecturers included Rabbi Yechezkel and Ora Rapoport, founders and directors of Chabad of Shoreline, Washington; and Rabbi Bentzion Pil, founder of the Schneerson Center and rabbi and spiritual leader of the Russian Jewish community of San Francisco.

The English-speaking lecturers included the renown speaker Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, an author and senior editor at, whose topics ranged from meditation to Jewish history, always with a practical message; Rabbi Reuven Wolf, founder and program director of Maayon Yisroel Chassidic Center in Los Angeles, who spoke about our power to make miracles; as well as Rabbi Asher Brander, Rebbetzin Batya Brander, Rabbi Gershon Shusterman, Rebbetzin Chana Rochel Shusterman, Rebbetzin Mattie Pil, Rebbetzin Nomi Freeman, and Mila Raigorodsky. David Weiss, a popular author, speaker, and award-winning screenwriter, served as Master of Ceremonies and spoke about his Jewish journey and his experiences as a Jew in Hollywood.

The participants left the shabbaton refreshed and inspired. “I keep coming back because I am learning a lot every time I come,” says Asya Bernwalt, who has been attending the Simxa shabbatons from the very beginning. “It’s a wonderful experience. I am meeting old friends and making new friends.”

“We enjoyed it this year as much as every year,” agrees Elvira Begelfer, another long-time participant. “Every time we come, we learn something new… that I can apply to my family, raising my children, personal growth.”

The children’s program, headed by Tzippy Kin, was also very successful. The children enjoyed challah baking, games, and ice skating and bowling trips.

All the participants enjoyed gourmet food and live entertainment, with live klezmer music at the melavah malkah by Leo Chelyapov and concerts for women by Katya Kapelnikova.

“It was very inspiring for me to see people so thirsty for learning,” says Esther Davidoff, who heads Simxa Company together with her husband, Moshe. “The lectures were packed! Even parallel lectures (Russian and English) were all full to capacity at the same time. The atmosphere was warm and felt like we were one big family.”