web analytics
July 29, 2015 / 13 Av, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

An Unforgettable Passover


One particular Passover for young Chaim Merimzon must have seemed like a dream. Merimzon was one of thousands of Jewish children – Cantonists – who were victims of Tsar Nicholas’s zealous obsession with forcing them to accept baptism.

One day, at the age of twelve, he was literally snatched from his home and forced to face years of hardship as a Cantonist. Despite the incessant pressure to accept baptism, he stubbornly resisted and remained a committed Jew.

The years passed and Nicholas’s successor, Alexander II, ended the brutal practices of the Cantonist system. After years of “service,” Merimzon was being transferred to another battalion. Along with a fellow Cantonist, Mikhail Zaks, he waited for another group to arrive to be transported together with his down the Volga River to the province of Saratov.

Merimzon and Zaks, who had also held on stubbornly to his faith, began to converse. It was the day before Passover, and the two commiserated. Tomorrow their parents would sit at the Seder while they would be traveling down the Volga. They reminisced about their lost childhoods and wept.

Suddenly, an elderly man approached. He had a thick reddish beard and wore a long coat of dark blue broadcloth belted with a red sash.

He stopped the men and questioned them. From where had they arrived? Where were they being sent? He noticed they were Jews and asked whether they had converted. Merimzon and his companion responded that they had not.

He stranger was impressed. “You were in the Cantonists and were able to remain Jews?” He bid them not to leave, promising he would soon return. Merimzon and his friend stood there wondering who the man was.

They waited for one hour and then another. Suddenly the man returned with a cab, and they embarked. The cabby yanked on the reins and the horses took off.

The elderly man led Merimzon and Zaks up a dark stairway to the top floor. He opened the door of a large and lavishly decorated chamber. From the ceiling hung a bronze chandelier; pictures decorated the walls along with mirrors in gild frames. Velvet armchairs rested around the room.

At a large table sat a middle-aged man in a long frock coat reciting from the Haggadah. The man got up and offered the Cantonists his hand. “Shalom aleichem,” he said. They replied in kind. Pointing to others in the room, Merimzon asked him, “Who are these people who are dressed as Russians but seem as Jews?”

The man smiled. “They are converts to Judaism, Subbotniks who enthusiastically practice Judaism. The government persecutes them cruelly but they have found a place in my landlord’s home to observe religious practices. This evening they will gather to sell their chametz, and tomorrow evening they will gather to pray.”

The two Cantonists were asked to stay for the holiday. They gladly accepted.

The next night at the Seder, the room was brightly lit by chandeliers and candelabras. The table was adorned with a magnificent bottle of wine. There were small goblets at each place and a large goblet set aside for Elijah the prophet. At each end of the table was a china plate with three matzos wrapped in new silk napkins.

The glasses were filled with wine and the host – the man who had found the Cantonists, Avraham Moisevich – recited the Kiddush in the traditional melody. He invited the soldiers to follow suit. Merimzon remembered how he used to do it at home; he chanted the words with joy and clarity. Then it was Saks’s turn. The children present asked the traditional Four Questions, which were answered by the adults.

At the meal, matzah balls were served with a tasty soup followed by a large portion of goose. Following the meal, the Seder service continued and everyone sang merrily. The final song of “Chad Gadya” was sung to the tune of a Russian folk dance.

Merimzon and his friend slept in soft beds until Moisevich called them for morning prayers. It was quite a change from the wake up calls they had heard over the past few years. For the next several days, life was like a dream; another Seder and more festive meals with their gracious hosts. The guests were content, well-fed and at peace.

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 “An Unforgettable Passover”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
The White House will free Pollard but bar him from traveling to Israel for five years.
US Won’t Let Pollard Out of Country for Five Years
Latest Indepth Stories

By most accounts, the one person with the political muscle to swing enough Democratic votes to override a veto is Sen. Schumer.

The next day, in a speech in New York to the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Kerry substantially upped the ante.

In Israel, the judiciary has established itself as superior to ALL other branches of the government.

The Fifteenth Day of the month of Av became a day of national rejoicing. The moment that had seemed hopeless became the moment of Redemption.

I think the melodies in our religious services have a haunting sound to them that just permeates your guts and gets into your soul. If you have any musical inclination, I think they inspire you to compose.

Cavalier analogies to the Holocaust are unacceptable, but Huckabee’s analogy was very appropriate.

Pollard was a Jewish-head-on-a-pike for all American Jews to see and to learn the explicit lesson.

If the Iran deal passes, Obama’s WH becomes world’s leading financier of terrorism against Americans

{Originally posted to the author’s website, FirstOne Through} Some passionate and eloquent liberals have bemoaned the state of inclusiveness among Jews today. Leon Wieseltier, editor of the New Republic penned an angry piece “J Street’s Rejection Is a Scandal” about the exclusion in 2014 of J Street from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. […]

Magnanimity by Moshe Dayan, allowing Muslim control of the Temple Mount, led to today’s situation.

It was modeled upon a similar fund that had been set up by Sephardic Jews in Venice. But Amsterdam’s Dotar was initially more ambitious in scope.

Rav Aharon Margalit is a bestselling author – his book, As Long As I Live, has been translated into four languages – and a standing-room only lecturer. Both religious and non-religious audiences flock to hear him. What makes him so extraordinary? Rav Margalit is a Chasidic Jew who experienced incredible challenges from a very young […]

J Street is the vanguard (Jewish face)in support of Obama’s Vienna Accords Nuclear Deal with Iran

“I hold the woman’s place over that of men in every fundamental aspect of public and private life.”

More Articles from Larry Domnitch
President  Barack Obama.

Congress sees the folly of the negotiations, as do most Arab nations who are too familiar with Iran

Map of Europe during WW I

Shavuot 1915, 200000 Jews were expelled; amongst the largest single expulsions since Roman times

An eye-witness claimed, “British troops just stood by” while Arab attacked Jews in then Palestine

UN inspectors were flabbergasted when Iran allowed them full unfettered access to All nuclear sites

Expulsions perpetrated by the Russians during WWI were the worst against the Jews since Roman times.

Arab opposition to a Jewish State of any size was made known by word and deed in the form of terror

Rav Kook offered recognition to the British but not thanks; the British merely fulfilled its destiny

Germany’s The Jewish Faith newspaper ominously noted, “We Jews are in for a war after the war.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/an-unforgettable-passover/2009/04/07/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: