web analytics
April 18, 2015 / 29 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Mendelevich: ‘Educating Young Jews Is at the Core of my Being’


Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich

Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich

Who else was involved in the hijacking?

In June 1970 Mark Dymshits, a former military pilot and major in the Russian air force, along with Eduard Kuznetsov, a recognized dissident who had already served a seven-year prison term in the Soviet Union, led us in this mission. Originally we had thought our goal would be to show the world that this movement was not just composed of young Jewish men but of all Jews, so we were going to try to hijack a big airliner and fill it with Jewish families.

We bought up all the tickets on a small plane under the guise of a trip to a wedding and were going to fly it from Leningrad to Sweden where we intended to hold a press conference asking world Jewry to help us in our quest for freedom. There were twelve of us aboard. With us were Sylva Zalmanson, who was Kuznetsov’s wife, and two non-Jews, Yuri Federov and Aleksey Murzhenko. We had planned to pick up four more people in the forest. But we were then arrested and charged with treason. It was clear the KGB knew of our plan, since we were arrested as we got close to the plane. After our arrest the Soviets initiated a crackdown on the Jewish and dissident movement.

What did the KBG do to you subsequent to your arrest?

They tried to break our resolve by threatening us with the death penalty. They thought that by doing so they would get us to condemn Zionism and urge other Jews in the Soviet Union not to be involved with Jewish causes and Israel. We were interrogated for six months until our trial. The goal of the KGB was to have us perform like puppets in the courtroom.

Rather than being manipulated by the Soviets and used as a propaganda tool, however, we did not rail against Zionism but instead declared in no uncertain terms that we are loyal to the Jewish nation, to Am Yisrael, and we demanded free Jewish emigration to Israel. We chanted “Let My People Go” in the courtroom.

Do you think your actions caused the Soviets to relax their emigration policy?

They were very worried about the tidal wave of international pressure and knew they could not withstand an economic boycott. Eventually they started to allow more Jews to emigrate to Israel and within a year after our trial some 17,000 Jews had left. I think the Soviets never thought all those Jews would actually leave if given the opportunity. The year after that, 35,000 Jews emigrated and I think the Soviets were totally shocked.

You were sentenced to 15 years in Soviet prisons. What was life like for you and the others?

I was in eight different labor camps and prisons in Siberia and Moldavia in the European mountain region. It was always a struggle, as a Soviet prison is tantamount to a work camp. Before my arrest, I was becoming a religious Jew and I did not give up on my commitment to being a believing Jew while in prison. Even though it was illegal to do so, I exhorted other Jewish inmates to observe Shabbos, to daven, and to learn Torah.

I knew my time in prison would be well spent if I were able to have an impact on my people. As a result, I was punished severely by the authorities and for three years of my sentence I was imprisoned under brutal conditions. I was transferred from the labor camp to a closed prison called Vladimir and I was essentially locked away in my cell. I eventually finished my term back in the labor camp and was with other nationalist groups such as Ukrainians and Lithuanians who were fighting for freedom.

When Natan Sharansky was arrested in 1977, I spent time with him in prison and came up with original ways of communicating, which I speak about in my book. Even though we had very little news from the outside world, in 1978 Sharansky told me things were being done for us by American Jews. We were only allowed to read the government-run newspapers, such as Pravda and Izvestia, and Russian newsletters. It was not easy being a Prisoner of Zion in Soviet camps, and news of those helping us in America and other places bolstered our spirits in immeasurable ways.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Mendelevich: ‘Educating Young Jews Is at the Core of my Being’”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
S300
Putin Warns Israel Against Weapons Sales to Ukraine as it Lifts Ban on S300 Sale to Iran
Latest Indepth Stories
Mrs. Golda Katz a"h

She had many names and was many things to many people, but to me she was just Babineni.

ISIS terrorist carries the group's black flag.

Is ISIS in Gaza? “No, but there are ISIS loyalists here..we pray to God they unite under ISIS’ flag”

Cliff Rieders

Rabbi Portal was that great “inspirer,” changing people for the better, enriching the lives of all

MK Moshe-Feiglin

Iran knows Obama, Putin, and the Europeans don’t have a Red Line beyond which they will go to war

There is no way to explain the Holocaust. I know survivors who are not on speaking terms with G-d. I know many who are the opposite. I have no right to go there…

When a whole side of your family perishes, friends become the extended family you do not have.

“We stand with Israel because of its values and its greatness and because its such a wonderful ally”

Mr. Obama himself inelegantly cautioned members of the Senate to be careful not to “screw up” the negotiations by seeking to have input into the future of the sanctions regime that has been imposed on Iran.

For our community, Mrs. Clinton’s foreign policy record will doubtless attract the most attention. And it is a most interesting one.

Mitchell Bard is nothing if not prolific. He has written and edited 23 books, including “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Middle East” and “The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America’s Interests in the Middle East.” Bard, who has a Ph.D. in political science from UCLA, is also the executive director of both the […]

Understanding the process described in Dayenu reveals deep relevance for us today.

For Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, the tanks, planes, and uniforms of the IDF were implements of mitzvot

The only way to become humble is honesty about our experiences; it’s the only path to true humility

Obama’s approach to evildoers echoes Gandhi’s fatuous and muddleheaded pleas to his “friend” Hitler

More Articles from Fern Sidman
book-new-anti-semitism

Because she is keenly aware that anti-Semitism may start with the Jews but never ends with the Jews, she makes the logical connection between the opprobrium for both America and Israel so commonplace on the political left.

Sidman-022814-Kabul

For the past 64 years, the Jewish Book Council has spotlighted the best of Jewish books and their authors through its presentation of the annual National Jewish Book Award. On March 5, the winners in nearly 20 categories of Jewish books will assemble at the Center for Jewish History in New York City for a celebratory gathering.

“This is the story of a young and naive Jewish American woman who meant to rebel against tradition but who found herself trapped in the past, stuck in the Middle Ages, without a passport back,” declared Dr. Phyllis Chesler.

In Unbroken Spirit: A Heroic Story of Faith, Courage and Survival (Gefen Publishing), the newly released English translation of his memoir, internationally renowned former Soviet refusenik Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich tells a compelling story of struggle and victory. He spoke to The Jewish Press during his recent U.S. book tour.

MK Tzipi Hatovely addressed a Chabad “Lunch and Learn” event on December 14 in Miami Beach.

The November midterm elections may well alter the political face of this country. Opponents of Obama administration policies have galvanized their forces and are eager to make their voices heard to the American electorate.

One of those people is Jay Townsend, a GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate from New York who will be seeking to unseat incumbent Sen. Charles Schumer.

The Human Rights Coalition Against Radical Islam, founded in May 2009, has held numerous political demonstrations, rallies and seminars aimed at bringing about a collective awareness of the perils of Islamic extremism. The Jewish Press sat down with Dr. Marvin Belsky, chairman of the board of HRCARI, to hear more about the goals and objectives of the group.

Skepticism about the existence of Hashem reigns supreme in some circles and there is clearly no shortage of unabashed atheists circulating in the literary world, blogosphere, and the media. Tragically, it is the Jew that has been most affected by the deluge of misinformation spewed forth by those who question the veracity of G-d’s existence while they fecklessly attempt to navigate the vicissitudes of life.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/educating-young-jews-is-at-the-core-of-my-being-an-interview-with-former-refusenik-rabbi-yosef-mendelevich/2012/07/18/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: