web analytics
December 18, 2014 / 26 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



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.

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

Current Top Story
The Harvard seal, "veritas," on the side of a Harvard building.
Harvard Boycotts SodaStream (Despite Company’s Surrender)
Latest Indepth Stories

No one would deny that the program subjected detainees to less than pleasant treatment, but the salient point is, for what purpose?

For the past six years President Obama has consistently deplored all Palestinian efforts to end-run negotiations in search of a UN-imposed agreement on Israel.

Joseph Berger 
(Photo: James Estrin)

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

For Am Yisrael, the sun’s movements are subservient to the purpose of our existence.

Israelis now know Arab terrorism isn’t caused by Israeli occupation but by ending Israeli occupation

Anti-Semitism is a social toxin that destroys the things that people most cherish and enjoy.

Amb. Cooper highlighted the impact of the Chanukah/Maccabee spirit on America’s Founding Fathers

Zealousness has its place and time in Judaism; Thank G-d for heroic actions of the Maccabees!

Israel and the strengthening of the Jewish people in faith and numbers has brought a growing light

“Can you hear what the dead are whispering? Leave Galut, escape to Eretz Israel-Lech lecha!”

3 main messages emerged from this conference: Communications, Community, and Collaboration.

In his short time with the shul, he has managed to activate a Hebrew school with now over 50 children and five teachers.

Recent headlines show escalation of the same attitudes and actions as existed during the Holocaust

The Mid-East conflict is a unidirectional campaign of Arabs murdering Jews, not the inverse.

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 […]

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

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: