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Power trio raise R750k for Kyiv Holocaust survivors

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Two Johannesburg businessmen heeded the recent call from Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein to help Ukrainian Jews, setting up a 50th birthday fundraiser which raised R750 000.

Business owner Rami Sassen and Clifford Joffe, the director of an automotive group, have been best friends for 35 years. To celebrate their 50th birthdays recently, they decided to do something special for charity. The plight of the desperate 1 800 Holocaust survivors in Kyiv resonated with them.

Joffe contacted Rabbi Eitan Ash of Chabad Savoy and together, they hatched a plan to create the event in two weeks. Ash had been speaking to chief rabbi of Kyiv, Rabbi Yonatan Markovich, and Goldstein about raising money for Pesach food parcels for Kyiv survivors.

“What struck us was that they were Holocaust survivors, alone, with no option to leave and no ability to fight. But they were desperate,” said Sassen.

“We considered that these people were going through yet another time in which they couldn’t celebrate Pesach. The Pesach story of freedom is in stark contrast to being stuck in an area with little access to food and being the recipients of food parcels.

“We couldn’t simply stand by and watch this happen. We all have a responsibility to play our part. They may be 9 000km away, but they need global support,” Sassen told the SA Jewish Report.

And so, the Tri-4-Ukraine Challenge was borne, and 100 participants joined on 24 April to swim, run, cycle, or all three, raising money for these Holocaust survivors. Sassen, Joffe, and Ash aimed for their event to give the chief rabbi’s cause “steroids”.

“We had seen no real mechanisms for the local community to contribute to this cause and believed that we needed a channel to give back to a community decimated by war,” said Sassen. “As triathletes, we thought of a fun [and gruelling] way for people to participate in a swim/ride/run event to raise money.”

The three have been involved in triathlon events and have been training for years. “We love the sport, the freedom of the outdoors, the adrenalin rush, and the ultimate challenge of testing our bodies and minds,” Sassen said.

Their Tri-4-Ukraine took place at Old Edwardians (Old Eds) in Houghton, and was made up of a 1.9km swim in the outdoor pool, 90km ride, and 21km run. The bike and run routes from Old Eds were held over seven hours.

Many people came on board willingly, Sassen said. “Though it was informal, Capri cycling club jumped onboard and supported the entire event with nourishment and its entire cycling club. Old Eds gave us its outdoor pool to use, and we had friends and friends of friends testing their mettle in either one of the swim, bike, run, or all three. We even had Uri Krost set up a swimming group in Cape Town which did the swim leg in Camps Bay – in nine degree choppy waters.”

Each participant wore the name of one of the Holocaust survivors in Kyiv printed on their shirt.

The Pesach food parcels paid for by every cent raised in Tri-4-Ukraine provided food and supplies over Pesach, and the trio have received “an incredible number of images of the people getting their parcels”.

Said Sassen, “We’re humbled by the generosity of people. It shows that the spark of an idea can turn into a reality that has a real impact on people’s lives and livelihoods. Some causes you simply cannot ignore.”

Any further contributions to this cause can be deposited in: COS Charitable Foundation, FNB, Branch Code: 210835, Acc: 62942922792. (Please use name + tri as your ref, when doing an EFT).

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Michele Stein

    Apr 28, 2022 at 11:01 am

    Unbelievable and most generous gesture!! Well done guys, you have done yourselves proud. 💙💙

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