web analytics
September 16, 2014 / 21 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Apartment 758x530 Africa-Israel at the Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York

Africa Israel Residences, part of the Africa Israel Investments Group led by international businessman Lev Leviev, will present 7 leading projects on the The Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York on Sep 14-15, 2014.



‘He Had A Vision And Was Always Right’: The Life Of A Ukrainian Jewish Leader

Shmist in his workshop making a memorial gravestone in 1992. (Photo courtesy of the Shmist family.)

Shmist in his workshop making a memorial gravestone in 1992. (Photo courtesy of the Shmist family.)

Rabbi Kaminetsky describes how Shmist also led a march on Yom Ha’atzmaut while still under Soviet rule, “He was the only one who wasn’t afraid. He was such a big Zionist, and even though everyone was scared, he would constantly say, ‘Be proud to be Jewish!’ ” Such defiance was evident when his supervisor at work told him to cut his beard or he will be fired. His daughter Leah says he replied, “Marx, Friedrich, Lenin all had beards! Would you fire them?” Leah explains, “At that point, if she said anything, she would have gone to the great wasteland of Siberia so she relented on her threat.”

In addition to being a cardiologist, Shmist was a historian and skilled sculptor and began making stone monuments to erect at Jewish memorial sites. The communal grave where the majority of Jews were killed over two days in 1941 had merely a plaque that said, “Here were killed Soviet citizens.” Shmist demanded the plaque include the fact that these victims were Jewish. Later on, when the government initiated plans to build a stadium at the mass grave site, Shmist quit his job as a physician, and began an eight year long campaign to protect the land as hallow ground.

Consequently, Shmist developed the reputation of being the “protector of graves,” and Ukrainians would constantly come to his house to tell him Jews were killed in their yards, whereupon he would examine the site and record the witness testimony. Shmist believed his life’s mission was to memorialize Jewish life in Ukraine before WWII so that it would be known how much Jewish life had been lost. Kaminetsky says, “There are many mass graves in the whole Dnepropetrovsk region and Arkady would always say, ‘The least we can do is remember their names.’ ”

Dr. Baruch Natapov, a New York dentist whose parents regularly celebrated Jewish holidays with the Shmist family, says, “Dr. Shmist understood that if Judaism is going to thrive, you can’t just focus on history, but on young children who hold the future.” Natapov describes Shmist as a “child prodigy and genius” and tells how Shmist conceived a daring plan together with his wife to request that the Soviet authorities recognize and fund a Jewish day school. “Most told him not to hold his breath, so there was no surprise when the mayor, who was a communist, kicked him out of his office,” Natapov says.

However, despite the doubt and derision, Shmist didn’t give up and traveled to Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, where he sat in the waiting room of the ministry of education until the minister agreed to meet with him. “Shmist was very smart and really believed he was put on earth in order to preserve Yiddishkeit,” Natapov says, “so he wouldn’t give up.” Eventually, to the surprise of most of the Jews who lived in Ukraine, permission was finally granted and the government agreed to give Shmist the funds to rent space, pay teachers salaries, and buy books.

Once permission for the Jewish school was granted by the government, Rabbi Kaminetsky built the school (which currently has an enrollment of 600 children) and made Shmist’s dream, a reality. The school opened in 1991, and Dnepropetrovsk had now set a precedent for all Jewish communities in the former Soviet Union who were now requesting that their Jewish schools also be funded by the government just as in Dnepropetrovsk.

Being an ardent Zionist, Shmist moved his family to Ashdod in Israel, where he would regularly commute. Rabbi Kaminetsky says, “I never met anyone like him, a real tzaddik who was totally selfless, who had mesiras nefesh for the tzibur, who believed his sole mission in life was to rebuild the Jewish community in Ukraine.” Rabbi Kaminetsky tells how the physician was also a musician and composer and regularly gathered people together in concerts to sing the Jewish-inspired songs he composed. “A rabbi or a director can be replaced but not Arkady,” he says. “If you never met him, you just can’t understand who he was and what he was capable of. We never argued with him over any of his ideas because he had vision and was always right.”

In the humble apartment in Ashdod overlooking the sea, Leah says, “My father was especially taken by the story of the Prophet Jonah who was sent as a messenger to influence the entire community of Ninveh to do teshuvah.” She explains how her father wanted to establish a large memorial for Prophet Jonah on the small hill in Ashdod, where Jonah is buried.

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 “‘He Had A Vision And Was Always Right’: The Life Of A Ukrainian Jewish Leader”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
The Iron Dome was called on for the first time in 2013 to intercept a missile fired by terrorists in Sinai at Eilat.
Iron Dome: Israel Ends the Long Battlefield Reign of the Missile
Latest Sections Stories
Ganz-091214-Fifty

Today, fifty years and six million (!) people later, Israel is truly a different world.

Goldberg-091214

There will always be items that don’t freeze well – salads and some rice- or potato-based dishes – so you need to leave time to prepare or cook them closer to Yom Tov and ensure there is enough room in the refrigerator to store them.

Women's under-trousers, Uzbekistan, early 20th century

In Uzbekistan, in the early twentieth century, it was the women who wore the pants.

Schonfeld-logo1

This is an important one in raising a mentsch (and maybe even in marrying off a mentsch! listening skills are on the top of the list when I do shidduch coaching).

While multitasking is not ideal, it is often necessary and unavoidable.

Maybe now that your kids are back in school, you should start cleaning for Pesach.

The interpreter was expected to be a talmid chacham himself and be able to also offer explanations and clarifications to the students.

“When Frank does something he does it well and you don’t have to worry about dotting the i’s or crossing the t’s.”

“On Sunday I was at the Kotel with the battalion and we said a prayer of thanks. In Gaza there were so many moments of death that I had to thank God that I’m alive. Only then did I realize how frightening it had been there.”

Neglect, indifference or criticism can break a person’s neshama.

It’s fair to say that we all know or have someone in our family who is divorced.

The assumption of a shared kinship is based on being part of the human race. Life is so much easier to figure out when everyone thinks the same way.

Various other learning opportunities will be offered to the community throughout the year.

The new group will also deliver kosher food to Jewish residents in non-kosher facilities, as well as to kosher facilities where the food is not up to par.

More Articles from Devora Mandell
Ambassador Ayalon with some of his students.

Never pushing any ideology, Ayalon stresses a few key thoughts – particularly that there is a division of responsibilities between Jews in Israel and the Diaspora.

Jeremie Berrebi

First, we want to be sure that the company is answering a real need; that the company is solving a real big problem.

Ettinger discussed two misconceptions: the belief that the Iranian nuclear threat is directed toward Israel rather than the U.S., and the notion that Palestinian demographics ensure a Jewish minority in the near future unless Israel surrenders Judea and Samaria.

The historical ties between Alabama and Israel dates back to 1943.

It was a much anticipated evening as the winners of the U.S. Israel Business Council (USI) competition for “most promising Israeli high-tech entrepreneurs with the next big idea,” were to be announced. The enthusiasm was overwhelming as there were more than 160 applicants to the “Israel to NY” competition, and despite some very impressive ideas, only 15 Israeli tech-startups were chosen as finalists.

Single-minded and dutifully on a mission, Leah Shmist is sitting at her mother’s kitchen table in Ashdod, sorting through a box of papers. Her father, Dr. Aharon Arkady Shmist, was among the first Jewish lay leaders in Ukraine who began to rebuild the Jewish community as soon as Mikhail Gorbachev initiated Perestroika and Glasnost in the mid 1980’s – allowing for greater freedom to religious groups. Much has been written about Shmist, documenting his work as a Jewish lay leader, and now his daughter Leah says she wants to complete the last project he was in the middle of before his untimely death.

Rabbi Mendy Rosenberg, a Viznitzer chassid, stands outside his Williamsburg tire shop in rain, sun, sleet and snow, repairing flat tires and replacing old worn ones. Located in an area that was once an industrial area, the shop seems to be out of place on an island sandwiched between towering new building complexes, part of Williamsburg’s building boom to accommodate the ever growing Chassidic population.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/he-had-a-vision-and-was-always-right-the-life-of-a-ukrainian-jewish-leader/2013/04/18/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: