web analytics
April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



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

Share Button

“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.

Share Button

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.

Leave a comment (Select your commenting platform)

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
Flyers ordered Jews to appear at a designated location in Ukraine, in Sept., 1941. The next day, the Jews lined up at the Babi Yar Ravine.
‘Jews Must Register’ Flyer in Ukraine an Echo of Babi Yar
Latest Indepth Stories
matza

If itis a mitzva to eat matza all Pesach, then why is there no berakha attached to it?

Masked Palestinian Authority Arabs hurl blocks at Israel Police during and after "worship" at Temple Mount mosque. (archive photo)

When we are united with unconditional love, no stone will be raised against us by our enemies.

Haredim riot after draft-dodger is arrested.

The reporter simply reports the news, but it is greater to be inspired to better the situation.

Bitton-041814

The Big Bang theory marked the scientific community’s first sense of the universe having a beginning.

Freeing convicted murderers returns the status of Jewish existence to something less than sanctified.

“The bigger they are the harder they fall” describes what God had in mind for Olmert.

We, soldiers of the IDF, who stand guard over the people and the land, fulfill the hopes of the millions of Jewish people across the generations who sought freedom.

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

Jews have brought the baggage of the galut (exile) mentality to the modern state of Israel.

The Haggadah is an instruction manual on how to survive as strangers in strange lands.

It’s finally happened. New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan reported on her blog that “many readers…wrote to object to an [April 2] article…on the breakdown in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians,” claiming “[they] found the headline misleading and the article itself lacking in context.” Ms. Sullivan provided one such letter, quoted the […]

Nor did it seem relevant that according to widely circulated media reports, Rev. Sharpton was caught on an FBI surveillance video discussing possible drug sales with an FBI agent.

Jewish soldiers in the Polish forces often encountered anti-Semitic prejudice.

When the state was established, gedolim went to Ben-Gurion and asked him not to draft women and, later, yeshiva bachrim.

More Articles from Chabad.org
chabad building attacked

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

From left: Rabbi Berel Mockin, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Rabbi Zalman A. Grossbaum and Rabbi Rabbi Yitzchok Wineberg, as Rabbi Wineberg presents Harper with a Chumash that includes commentaries of the Rebbe.

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 […]

The Torah they got “is a piece of art. It is one of the most beautiful Torahs anyone’s ever seen…”

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    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: