web analytics
July 25, 2014 / 27 Tammuz, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
IDC Advocacy Room IDC Fights War on Another Front

Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

What Would Stalin Say?

Sami Rohr’s impetus for building Jewish community in the former Soviet Union.
Reb Shmuel Rohr (L) with Rabbi Berel Lazar.

Reb Shmuel Rohr (L) with Rabbi Berel Lazar.
Photo Credit: Israel Bardugo

“But a baby who’s circumcised—why, he’s never heard of Stalin, and neither knows nor cares about what he’d say. Instead, the parents and the mohel help express the baby’s timeless and deep-rooted connection with G‑d, his super-rational connection, with no extraneous considerations. That is the true victory of Judaism over Stalinism!”

Reb Shmuel’s yardstick: If Stalin could see babies being circumcised he’d roll over in his grave. Then surely, that’s what must be done!

Shul Attendance

I remember vividly when he read a report from the shliach living in what was once called Stalingrad (now known as Volgograd). Despite being there for several years, his community was not yet able to hold a minyan on weekdays. Reb Shmuel was deeply pained by this. He phoned me and implored, “How can we improve this situation?” It bothered him deeply, very personally. Why? Well, public prayer was banned during Stalin’s tyrannical reign, so it was yet another thing that Reb Shmuel knew would certainly cause Stalin no end of pain. Especially in the very city so famously named for Stalin!

In many cities he initiated what he called “Kiddush enhancement” programs after Shabbos prayers, so that more Jews would be attracted to the synagogue. True, he said, some people might be attracted solely by the good cholent—but then they’ll also be coming to shul, and there will be a nice-sized minyan, and slowly they’ll partake of the prayers, too.

Why was attracting more people to attend prayers so important? Because Stalin would surely turn over in his grave from it . . .


If you think about it for a minute, it’s rather odd. A Jew who ran away from Europe, who escaped the Nazis by the skin of his teeth, who built up his fortune in Colombia and lives in the United States—what’s he got to do with Stalin? What is it about Stalin that bothers him so much that he’ll do anything to “see” him roll over in his grave?

I believe the answer is simple. The belief in G‑d and His Torah burned deeply inside Reb Shmuel Rohr. And in Stalin he saw the embodiment of evil chutzpah, the brazen attempt to eradicate Judaism, to put an end to Jewish holiness, G‑d forbid. By definition, then, whatever “pains” Stalin is good. To Reb Shmuel, the victory over Stalinism is G‑d’s triumph; it’s the victory of Judaism, the ultimate vindication of our holy Torah. And this spurred him to revitalize so many communities after seventy years of repression.

Time passed, and Reb Shmuel came for a visit. He traveled from place to place in the former Soviet Union, visiting the beautiful synagogues and seeing the communities pulsating with Jewish life: children and teenagers, men and women, young and old, all living a world of Judaism.

Reb Shmuel wasn’t happy; he didn’t smile. He glowed. His entire self, everything about him, bespoke joy.

Indeed, he did get to see that Jewish revenge—not just his grandchildren, but he himself merited already to see some of the fruits of his investments. He saw the triumph of Judaism.


The magnificent edifice of Judaism in the former Soviet Union, the spiritual revolution that took place here over the past two decades, the hundreds of thriving communities—are all in very large part due to the historic opportunity that Reb Shmuel recognized.

Though his passing last year was deeply mourned by the shluchim and their communities, thanks to him his spiritual descendants join his biological children as proud and committed Jews. These countries are in fact full of thousands of Reb Shmuel’s spiritual grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And through them, he lives on.

Judaism in the former Soviet Union, and the fact that Stalin is rolling over in his grave—is overwhelmingly due to Reb Shmuel, a man of enormous vision and even greater conviction.

May his memory be a blessing.

Rabbi Berel Lazar is Chief Rabbi of Russia and Chairman of the Rabbincal Alliance of the Former Soviet Union.

About the Author: Chabad.org is a division of the Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center, under the auspices of the Lubavitch World Headquarters


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.

Please use the Facebook Tab below to leave your comment:

2 Responses to “What Would Stalin Say?”

  1. Ch Hoffman says:

    R' Lazar may be a well-meaning man with a sense of purpose.
    But his main goal should be to get as many Jews as possible to leave Rus while the opp'ty still esxists.

  2. Tim Upham says:

    Now there is a large museum on Jewish history in Moscow. Chabad has been helping communities in Kharkov and Moldavia, and Jewish pilgrims have been flocking to Rebbe Nachman's grave in Uman. A far cry from the days of helping them to get out during the Soviet Era.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Loading Facebook Comments ...
Loading Disqus Comments ...
Current Top Story
New York Senator Chuck Schumer (D)
BiPartisan U.S. Effort to Ensure Hamas Disarmed Before Ceasefire
Latest Indepth Stories
Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett

Because let’s face it: Hamas obviously can’t defeat the IDF in the field, soldier against soldier

IDF soldier injured in Gaza is evacuated by helicopter to Soroka hospital.

The residents of Gaza were not occupied by the Hamas; they voted for the terror organization in democratic elections, by a huge majority, by virtue of its uncompromising struggle against Israel. For this reason, the separation between the armed Hamas terrorists and those ‘not involved’ or ‘innocents’ is false. The Gazans are now paying for […]

Shimon Peres meets with the family of fallen IDF soldier Max Steinberg.

As Peres retires, Israel fights sour legacy: Insistence on setting policy in line with hopes, rather than with reality.

Keeping-Jerusalem

Our capital was not arbitrarily chosen, as capitals of some other nations were.

UNHRC High Commissioner Navi Pillay accuses the IDF of possible war crimes in Gaza again, cutting slack to Hamas.

People test Israel every day to see how serious we really are in knowing when we are right.

Should Jews in Europe take more responsibility in self-defense of community and property?

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

The truth is we seldom explore with kids what prayer is supposed to be about.

Almost as one, Jews around the world are acknowledging the day-to-day peril facing ordinary Jews in Israel and the extraordinary service of the IDF in protecting them.

So on the one hand Secretary Kerry makes no bones about who is at fault for the current hostilities: he clearly blames Hamas.

King Solomon said it long ago: “Cast your bread upon the waters” because you don’t know when you’ll hit something. Our job is to do.

The anti-Israel camp does not need to win America fully to its side. Merely to neutralize it would radically alter the balance of power and put Israel in great jeopardy.

We mourn the dead, wish a speedy recovery to the wounded, and pray that God guides the government.

More Articles from Chabad.org
Gabriel Felder was selected for the prestigious honor of representing his graduating class at The George Washington University commencement, marking the second year in a row that a Jewish student leader has done so.

Felder said he and his fellow students learned well the teaching of the Rebbe.

chabad building attacked

Chabad Rabbi Michael Oishie had left the building just 20 minutes before the attack.

Canadian Chabad rabbis accompanied Harper on his trip.

“It was quite an institutionalized racism, and we didn’t come to get involved in politics.”

Gematria is more than random wordplay.

We are brought into this confusing, fascinating, infuriating world for such a short amount of time, and it’s our mission to accomplish what we can for the several decades we are allotted.

If one has only enough money to afford either a cup of wine for Shabbat kiddush or oil for his Hanukkah lamp, the mitzvah of Hanukkah takes precedence.

Originally published at Chabad.org. Chabad Lubavitch emissaries will begin arriving in New York next week from all parts of the world for the Kinus Hashluchim—the annual get-together of emissaries, their parents, friends and supporters, and a record number are expected to attend this year. Organizers have spent more than six months planning for the Chabad […]

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/what-would-stalin-say/2013/08/13/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: