Sunday August 15, 1976, FREE held its first Gala Pidyan Haben Ceremony at camp FREE Gan Israel Summer Camp, Parksville, New York.
The head table flanked with distinguished guest: Pictured left to right is Rabbis: Leibel Lipsker, Dovid Okounv, Mr. Gegerman, A. Pliskin, Avroham Shemtov. Rabbi Hirsh Chitrik, Moshe Pincos Katz, Zalmen Shimon Dworkin, Asher Kirsblum, Zev Nisenevitz (speaking).
Sunday August 7, 1973, FREE held its first Gala Bar Mitzvah Ceremony for fourteen young refugees at camp FREE Gan Israel Summer Camp, Parksville, New York.
The 14 Bar Mitzvah boys stand at the head table together with the distinguished guest: Pictured left to right on the lower level is Rabbis: Leibel Lipsker, A. Pliskin, Pinches Hirsprung, Zalmen Shimon Dworkin, Mayer Okounov (standing), Sholom Ber Gordon, Yisroel Friedman, Moshe Chaim Levin (standing), Mendel Okunov (standing). Upper level: Hirsh Okunov, Avroham Shemtov, Yitzchok Raitport, Hirsh Chitrik (speaking), renown tenor Jan Peerce.
One of FREE’s Gala Bar Mitzvah ceromonies at Camp FREE/Gan Israel, located in Kiryat Gan Israel, Parksville, NY.
Special delegation of honorary guests included Rabbis (front row from L. to R.): Gorowitz, Yeshoshua Korf, Zalmen Azimov, Abba Pliskin, Asher Sosonkin, Dovid Okunov.
Staff (standing) are Rabbis Zalman Shagalov, member of FREE’s Honorary Committee; Elazar Gorelick, Director of FREE in Melbourne; Mayer Okunov, Chairman of FREE; Mendel Okunov, Principle of FREE’s High School; Moshe Chaim Levin, Director of Chabad of Kensington; Yosef Volovic, Shlomo Galperin, teacher at FREE’s high-school.
An address to the children of Camp Gan Israel New York
Camp ‘Gan Israel’ is named after Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement — for through studying and living by his teachings, the Baal Shem Tov lives on.
A teaching of the Baal Shem Tov: “How can the Mishna say, ‘Who is wise? He who learns from every person,’ if not everyone you meet is a proper role model? The answer: When you meet a righteous person, learn from him how to act properly. And when you observe someone who is not righteous, learn from him how not to act.”
One time, a wagon got stuck in the mud, and the non-Jewish driver poked his head into the Baal Shem Tov’s synagogue, asking his disciples for help to pull the wagon out. The disciples replied: “We’re sorry, but we aren’t strong enough to lift it.” The man replied: “You can, but you don’t want to.” The Baal Shem Tov later explained the man’s words as a fundamental lesson: Don’t convince yourself that you aren’t strong enough. G-d grants the strength to achieve all good things — and if you truly want it, you will succeed.