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‘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.)

“As a historian, he believed it necessary to remember our history that brought us to this point, but he also wanted to do this in an artistic and creative way so that those who may not be interested in the religious aspect of Prophet Jonah, might come to learn Torah through their interest in art and culture.”

As preparations were underway to create the Prophet Jonah memorial, Shmist chose an artist to design the memorial and a sculptor to create it. On morning he went down to the sea where he would immerse each day in a natural mikveh and tragically drowned at the age of 59.

Now, Leah wants to continue the project her father started in Israel but wasn’t able to complete, just as Rabbi Kaminetsky and the Dnepropetrovsk Jewish community (with the support of Lev Leviev, Gennady Bogolubov, and Alexander Byoko) have completed many of the projects that Shmist began in Ukraine. Shmist’s family has established a non-profit organization, Ohel Avrohom, as they plan to complete the single project that he began in the holy land.

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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.

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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/

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