The People of the Book

August 31, 2019
From left to right: Alexander Kniga, Yegor Rubenchik (curator from kibbutz Yagur), Nina Kniga|Kinga families beloved books|A day before the eldest son Evgeni left to Israel|Doctor Michael Shraiber, grandfather of Nina, demonstrates his invention

Above Photo From left to right: Alexander Kniga, Yegor Rubenchik (curator from kibbutz Yagur), Nina Kniga

“Kniga” from Russian means “book”. Today I will tell you a story of a Jewish family with a name Kniga.

Jews together with Christians were traditionally called by Moslems “People of the Book”. As Maimonides writes:

‘Every Jew is obligated to study Torah, whether he is poor or rich, healthy or ill, young or old. Even if he is a pauper who derives his livelihood from charity, or if he has family obligations to his wife and children, he must still establish fixed times for Torah study—both day and night, as it says (Joshua 1:8), “You shall think about it day and night” who is brave enough to start everything from zero, children or parents? When parents feel uncertain, children make Aliyah (go to Israel) first!’

A day before the eldest son Evgeni left to Israel

This scenario happened in the family of Alexander and Nina Kniga four years ago when their sons Maxim and Evgeni announced to the parents as a fait accompli: “We make Aliyah right now!”

“My Max was by that time 12 years old,”— says Nina. Evgeni and after two years also Maxim made Aliyah, learned in boarding schools and missed their parents a lot. But very quickly they became real Israelis. Both of them had “Shabbat Parents”, families where they could come for weekends or holidays. Evgeni didn’t have much luck with his “adoptive family”, but Maxim came along with his Shabbat Parents very well.

After two years of waiting for every call or message from their children Alexander and Nina finally felt that they are ready for the big step of Aliyah. Their split family became an integral whole again!

In December 2018 Alexander and Nina left behind their life in Moscow and took a plane to Israel. That’s how they arrived to their first home in the Homeland, located in the North of the country, in the kibbutz Yagur near Haifa.

‘It’s still almost impossible for us to come all together at the same time in the same place’ tells me Nina, ‘Evgeni is now in the army, Maxim in the boarding school, we are in the Hebrew course five days a week’.

Kinga families beloved books

But still the feeling of being together is so valuable! Before leaving to Israel Nina and Alexander gave out almost all their belongings that didn’t fit into three bags every of which 23 kg. The most painful was a farewell to the books!

So the Kniga family decided to bring the most valuable and beloved books to the office of the Jewish Agency in Moscow. One of them was a “Remembrance book” about the Holocaust victims, Kniga family had volumes one and three. Silently Nina left the books on the shelf in the office of JAFI. How surprised she was when the next week she saw on the same shelf four volumes instead of two! Someone else got inspired by their idea…

“Our Jewishness was always a forbidden theme in our family. My grandfather changed his name, but the Jewish look you cannot change,” Nina laughs.

Doctor Michael Shraiber, grandfather of Nina, demonstrates his invention

A day before the eldest son Evgeni left to Israel In 1952-1953 Joseph Stalin organized in Moscow an anti-Semitic campaign against Jewish doctors, they were accused of conspiring to kill Soviet leaders. Both of Nina’s grandparents were doctors, her grandfather invented a special measurement tool for burnt skin. He was close to being arrested, but at the last moment the director of the hospital where he worked sent all his family on a long-term mission to Mongolia, away from Moscow. It saved his life and all his family members as well.

Today the grand-grandchildren of doctor Shraiber can say openly that they are Jews, they can without fear choose every profession and be evaluated without any prejudice.

This family got reunited in Israel thanks to your support! Alexander and Nina are one of more than 245 families that made Aliyah via First Home in the Homeland program in 2018. Now our “busy season” is well under way and we’re getting ready for August, when First Home opens its doors in five regions of Israel at the same time, over 100 families are coming. And every one of them has his or her own story!



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