Escape From Russia -

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Resource Type: Peula in: English
Age: 6-14
Group Size: 10-30
Estimated Time: 45 minutes

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Resource Goal

To give the chanichim an experience which will help them comprehend what it is like to live in an oppressive society and remind them to appreciate their own freedom.

To discuss how Israel should deal with the mass aliyah from the former USSR, Ethiopia and how we must relate to new olim.

Resource Contents

Escape From Russia

The following peulah is meant to be run as a Snif Wide Peulah with different age groups playing different roles in a large game.

Contact Your Roshei Snif To Find Out They Have Personalized This Peulah For Your Snif.


The topic of this peulah will be the aliyah of oppressed Jews to Israel in the last

two decades. This peulah will use the model situation of Soviet Jewry to simulate what it felt like to be living under an oppressive regime. To get a good idea of what it must have been like check out the Encyclopedia Judaica, the Internet, or ask your parents or teachers. To introduce your chanichim to the topic you may want to tell them one persons story. One person whose story you can tell is Natan Sharansky, now a Member of Knesset and a former Refusnik in the USSR (you can also look him up in the Encyclopedia Judaica).

The second topic, which we will focus on more with the older age groups, is the absorption of these groups within Israeli society and the difficulties Israel faces in dealing with them. These difficulties include problems of racism towards and poverty of the Ethiopian olim, a shortage of jobs for Russian olimThe major question being debated is: What is our obligation to these people and exactly how much do we have to do for them?


To give the chanichim an experience which will help them comprehend what it is like to live in an oppressive society and remind them to appreciate their own freedom.

To discuss how Israel should deal with the mass aliyah from the former USSR, Ethiopia and how we must relate to new olim.


The MOOD in this peulah is the key. Remember: You are Soviet Refusniks trying to escape!!

Grades 1-4 (5 can be included as well, depending on snif size)

The madrichim of each group will act as the parents of a family which is trying to escape from Russia. Begin by explaining what Soviet Jewry was and how it felt to live in a country where you werent free to be Jewish and you werent free to leave. You can also tell them an individuals story (i.e. Natan Sharansky).

Next, explain to them that you must now get through Russian and Israeli customs to get to Israel and freedom. Each customs station will ask you a number of questions to make sure that you really are a family and that you deserve to get into Israel. They may also test you in other ways

Before leading your group to the first station make sure they all know each others Russian names, their parents job, the favorite family food, holidayThen take them to the first station-remember to have everyone hold hands to show that you are a family, and no running-it looks suspicious!!

After the first station has quizzed and tested you go over the following information: School name, address, friends names and relatives names, which you will be quizzed on at the second station.

When you are done you will be given a Russian Exit Visa.

The next station, located in a different area of the Shul/Community Center/Wherever you run Snif, is an Israeli station where you will be tested for Israeli Citizenship.

The first station will ask you to sing Yad Achim (forwards and backwards), define the Law of Return (you can look that one up in the Encyclopedia Judaica too) and tell them why you want to come to Israel.The second station will ask you about major Israeli wars (1948,1956,1967,1972), the Bnei Akiva motto and all of your Hebrew names.

Having successfully cleared all the stations you will be given Israeli Passports. Sit your group down for a couple of minutes to discuss:

How it felt

What it must be like for people who are really prisoners

Who should be allowed to become a citizen of Israel and why.

How much current citizens of Israel should do for new olim; how much we should do for them; what does the Torah require of us (VAhavta lreicha kamocha, the mitzva of tzedaka).

How much we must appreciate our freedom to do mitzvot (including aliyah) and our responsibility to be thankful to Hashem and to take advantage of our opportunities.

Grade 6 (5, 7-8 can also be included depending on Snif size)

These age groups will be divided into Secret Police and Customs Agents.

The Secret Police will first be given background on the topic (see above) by their madrichim. They will then set out to patrol the area. Whenever they see a group not holding hands or running, they can detain that group for a few minutes to punish them. Since there will be less for this group to do there can be more time spent in discussion of the actual issues at hand. (See Grade 7-8 section for more discussion questions.)

The Customs Agents will run the stations. Each station will quiz the groups on the appropriate information as they pass through (see above) and will make them pass a physical test as follows (all tests should be done separately by boys and girls):

Station 1: Here the chanichim must prove that they are a united family by catching their own tail without breaking a link. They must form a line one in back of the other while holding each others shoulders, the last person in line has a sock tucked into the back of his/her belt and the first one must chase around (forming a circle) and grab it within 5 seconds without any of them breaking contact.

Station 2: Here they must prove they can work together by crossing a pool of hot lava. The only way they can get across is if each persons FEET are always in contact with their friends feet, forming one long (sideways) chain. If anyone breaks contact they must return to the start line again.

Station 3: Here they must show off their Bnei Akiva knowledge by singing Yad Achim forwards, backwards and in a line with each person saying one word at a time.

Station 4: Here the chanichim must count to 10 in Hebrew. One person calls out a number at a time and if two people call out a number at once they have to start over. The Catch? They cant discuss it beforehand or make a set order in which they will count and they cant talk during the counting (except for saying the numbers).

When the Chanichim finish the first two stations they are given a Russian Exit Visa and when they finish the last two they are given an Israeli Passport.

For the follow-up discussion begin with the questions in the grade 1-5 discussion (above) and continue to the grade 7-8 questions if you have time.

Grades 7-8

Whether or not these chanichim will participate in the actual peulah will depend on the size of the Snif in your city and the decision of your Roshei Zach and Snif. If they dont participate you can use the Israeli passports to run the following peulah.

Begin by telling the groups Natan Sharanskys story and giving them background information on the Ethiopian, Russian and Syrian aliyot.

Place 7 Israeli passports in the middle of the circle and tell them that they must decide which of the following 10 people should receive the passports:

1. Natan Sharansky

2. An uneducated Ethiopian who may or may not be halachically Jewish.

3. A wealthy American Zionist

4. A Russian Doctor who may or may not be halachically Jewish

5. A Yemenite Jewish man and his pregnant wife-who know nothing of the modern world but know Tanach by heart (2 passports needed).

6. A Reform couple, one of whom has just recently undergone a Reform conversion to Judaim (2 passports needed).

7. Two Christian Arab-Americans who want to move into an Israeli-Arab town to build a hospital for the people of the town (2 passports needed).


How do we decide who should get the passports? Is it based on their situation, what they can give us, their religion.

What does Israeli Law say? (Law of Return would guarantee numbers 1-6 and the Reform Jew of Jewish birth immediate citizenship, the others would have to apply.)

What happens once they are in Israel?

How much is Israel required to help them? How much are we required to help them?

What does the Torah require of us?

VAhavta lreicha kamocha-we must help others!! Still, the gemmara says that if two people are walking in the desert, one of whom has a canteen with enough water for only himself to survive he must drink the water himself.The Torah doesnt seem to require us to give up our lives for a friendàHow far do we have to go?

Is the role of Medinat Yisrael to be a home for all Jews or just the ones who can benefit it?

Are all Jews needed in our attempt to build a model society in Israel?

What about American Jews?

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