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  • Israeli visitor finds a true mitzvah at the Klein JCC

    Published: 02/08/2013

    Abram Khlinnikov, 75, from Tel Aviv, who speaks only Russian and Hebrew, arrived at Philadelphia International Airport on a Saturday last month. He found a Russian-speaking cabdriver and said that he'd come here to visit his cousin but that his cousin didn't want to see him, so now what?

    The cabdriver is from Northeast Philadelphia, so he figured that there's one place that could do a mitzvah - a good deed, a solid - for an abandoned Russian-speaking senior from Israel. It's the Raymond & Miriam Klein Jewish Community Center, on Jamison Avenue near Red Lion Road.

    So that's how Andre Krug, who is Klein JCC president and chief executive, found Khlibnikov, standing at the front desk, suitcase in hand.

    "He said he's got a glaucoma problem with his eyes, thinks he's going blind fast," Krug said, after a bilingual Klein JCC staffer acted as interpreter. "Since there's socialized medicine in Israel, he couldn't see a doctor there for awhile, so he came to Philadelphia. He said, 'Do with me what you want.' He's a little excitable."

    Krug called Khlibnikov's wife in Israel to ask if she knew where her husband was. "She said he was in America to visit relatives, knew they wouldn't take him in but went anyway," Krug said.

    After putting Khlibnikov up in a nearby hotel, a Klein JCC social worker drove him to the center every day so that he could attend programs for Russian seniors.

    Thanks to Klein JCC's relationship with Wills Eye Institute, a doctor examined Khlibnikov, told him his eyes weren't in immediate danger and arranged for a doctor in Israel to see him upon his return.

    Krug said that Klein JCC's response to Khlibnikov's sudden arrival showed how far the agency has come in its 37 years.

    "We've changed from a traditional gym-and-swim to a full- blown social-service agency," Krug said. "People are not moving to Florida anymore. They age in place. We serve over 5,000 seniors, which makes us the largest senior center in the city of Philadelphia.

    "So, we opened a doctor's office here in cooperation with Einstein Healthcare Network. When Abram came here, he was seen by the doctor immediately, which is a rarity these days."

    Along with a traditional Jewish population, Krug said, Klein JCC now serves increasing numbers of families from India and China. "We're like Northeast Philadelphia itself," he said. "We're very diverse."

    Khlibnikov recently returned to Israel, where, Krug hopes, he doesn't speak so highly of the care he received here that Klein JCC is suddenly deluged with Israeli visitors, suitcases in hand, telling the startled front desk receptionist, "Do with me what you want."

    (See the article on

  • Communications Team