Rabbi Zalman Abelsky was already seventy years old, yet young in spirit, when he received the offer to move to Moldova as the Rebbe’s Shliach, which was then a part of the Soviet Union.
Rabbi Abelsky did not hesitate and answered immediately, “Where the Rebbe needs me, I will be there.”
The time period was shrouded in confusion. Although the Soviet Union had begun to approach the West and discuss democracy, people were still afraid and did not trust the Russians.
Rabbi Abelsky was forced to flee the Soviet Union many years before, for he was wanted by the Soviet authorities. Therefore, even when the Ezra’s Achim organization asked him to move to Moldova, there was a concern that the Rebbe would not agree to send Shluchim to the Soviet Union, and certainly those who were wanted by the authorities.
To everyone’s astonishment, the Rebbe’s answer, “Azkir al hatziyon” came a short fifteen minutes after asking, thus paving the way for sending many Shluchim to the Soviet Union. The rest is history.
Moldova was formerly part of the Romanian state where Rabbi Abelsky was sent on a mission by the Rebbe Rayatz.
In 5731/1971, the Rebbe conducted a “UN” in 770, in which each representative of a country voted that Eretz Yisroel belongs to the Yiddin. When it came to Romania, the Rebbe was asked who to call up, and the Rebbe replied to call up R’ Zalman Abelsky.
Starting Jewish life in Moldova was as full of challenges as anything new. Obtaining kosher food was very difficult, as well as adapting to a cumbersome and bureaucratic regime. And most challenging of all, was the responsibility to educate an entire generation that was deeply detached from Judaism and simply knew nothing.
One hundred thousand Jews lived throughout the country of Moldova at that time. Reb Zalman’s office knew no rest. Every day, many dozens of Jews knocked on his door and asked for his advice, blessings and guidance. Indeed, the name “R’ Zalman”, who was appointed Chief Rabbi of Moldova, was known to all Jews and non-Jews alike.
Slowly, despite the difficulties, they built up a school, a kindergarten, a newspaper and everything they needed for community life.
For nearly thirty years, Rabbi Abelsky and his wife, Rebbetzin Leah, have given of themselves completely for the local community.
After his death, his son Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Abelsky, was appointed as Chief Rabbi, and his brother, Rabbi Zushe Abelsky, runs the institutions. Both of them are led by Rebbetzin Leah, who announced immediately during the shiva of her husband, that “Shluchim do not leave, no matter what.”
Today, three additional families of dedicated Shluchim, the Axelrod, Zalmanov and Gotzel families, have joined the team in Moldova, reaching hundreds of Jews every week. The community is smaller than it used to be, but the spirit is vibrant, both in Kishinev, and in its surrounding towns and villages. Jewish holidays, Torah classes, a kindergarten, a grocery store and ready-made food are available for everyone.
The center of all the activities is the main shul in Kishinev, the Jewish heart of the state.
Now it’s time for a modern and up-to-date synagogue that will meet the needs of the time!
An extensive renovation of the Chabad Synagogue in Chisinau has recently begun, which will make the place beautiful and modern, suitable for the needs of the community today. The new synagogue will be named “R’ Zalman’s Shul”, after the Head Shliach of Kishinev and Moldova for nearly thirty years, Rabbi Zalman Abelsky ob”m.
The new Shul will be by the name of Moldova’s first and most dedicated head Shliach, R’ Zalman, without whom the Jewish life and community in Moldova would not exist.
The renovation of the Shul costs approximately $400,000, and we need your help! Your donation will give the Jews of Moldova the synagogue to which they are entitled. Be a part of this incredible project!