89 year-old Yosef Golesnik was born in Bobruisk, Russia. When he was 17, he was drafted into the Red Army and served in locations such as Vladivostok and Gorky. He also served during the liberation of Poland, Berlin, and the Treblinka concentration camp.
Golesnik witnessed the horrors; the discovery of ash from burned corpses, soap made from the bodies of dead Jews, piles of teeth and hair, hats and shoes.
After the war, Yosef was awarded a medal for his acts of bravery during his time in the Russian army. He later moved to Israel, and has been a resident of Jerusalem for 20 years. Today he lives in an old age home in the Ramot neighborhood.
Over the years, the local Shliach Rabbi Yaakov Zonnenfeld has tried to bring Yosef closer to Judaism, but to no avail. Each time, Yosef’s response was, “Where was G-d during the Holocaust?”
Last year, Chabad of Ramot organized a minyan for Hakafos on Simchas Torah at the old age home for the first time. Yosef was moved to tears when he saw the Sefer Torah, and soon he joined in the dancing. With all his strength, he held onto the Sefer Torah, and his Jewish spark reemerged.
This year, once again, Chabad organized a minyan for Rosh Hashanah at the old age home. Shliach Rabbi Yisrael Lipsker, who organized it, went from apartment to apartment to invite the residents to hear the Shofar. When he met Yosef, he had to explain to him what a Shofar is, and what the holiday of Rosh Hashana is.
During the tekios, Yosef listened silently and with feeling. When the first ones were done and the minyan davened Mussaf, he went to stand by the aron kodesh and did not move. His whole body swayed as he prayed silently to G-d.
Since Rosh Hashanah, Yosef, even at his advanced age, has begun to rediscover his Judaism and has been joining in activities organized by Chabad of Ramot.