Knowing little about Judaism, 11 Russian immigrant families in the Los Angeles area began meeting in 1991, holding Shabbat dinners together and learning Jewish teachings from their children, many of whom were enrolled in Jewish day schools.
Among them was Olga Belogolova's family, which had emigrated from Kiev and settled in Irvine. Last year, one of the havurah's teens learned that a 9-year-old cousin, Alona, hospitalized with pneumonia in St. Petersburg, was going untreated because her parents lacked money for medicine.
Together, the families pooled $3,000, and forwarded the funds to St. Petersburg's rundown Children's Hospital No. 19. Just $500 was needed for Alona's recovery. The havurah's generosity was acknowledged with a long list of supplies purchased by the hospital. Antibiotics for an ear infection, for example, cost $3.
"We realized we could help more people than just the family friend," said Belogolova, 17, co-founder and president of the CureKid Foundation, established last year to assist one ill-supplied Russian hospital. Her mother, Alla Korinevskaya, teaches math at Tarbut V'Torah Community Day School; her father, Igor Belogolov, is a programmer.
The teenager and her friends identify with the plight of Russian children. For the last year they have been sharing their cause at community events, such as the recent Israel fair, and also organize fundraisers, such as an arrangement last month with a local restaurant that agreed to contribute a percentage of one night's receipts.
"I always tried to find a community service," said the Woodbridge High senior. "I never found anything that interested me."
Information about the foundation can be found at www.curekid.org .