Community news service COLlive.com presents “In the Footsteps of Rebbetzin Chana’s Diaries,” an exclusive short documentary series revisiting key locations written about by Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson OBM, the mother of the Rebbe.
Rebbetzin Chana voluntarily joined her husband, Harav Levi Yitzchok Schneeerson OBM, during his exile in Kazakhstan between 1940 and 1944. She had written about her harrowing experiences after arriving in the United States in 1947.
Reb Levi Yitzchok was sentenced by the communist regime for his fearless stance against their efforts to eradicate Jewish learning and practice in the Soviet Union. He and the Rebbetzin eventually moved to the city of Almaty, after which he passed away on Chof Av.
The series shows the Shluchim and Chabad historians, Rabbi Eliezer Zaklikovsky of Monroe, NJ, and Rabbi Mendel Feller of Minnesota, as they tour the buildings and areas mentioned by the Rebbetzin’s diary.
Scenes and stories covered in the sixth film are:
17) Sukkah outside “mud hut”: Even under their harsh circumstances, living in a rented inner-room of a “mud hut”, and under the constant watch of the authorities, they succeeded in building a Sukkah – disguised as an anti-room, at the entrance to their “mud hut”.
18) Inside “Mud Hut”, Shieli: Perhaps one of the most emotional stories in the diary. Rebbetzin Chana describes, the intense spiritual anguish, felt by Reb Levi Yitzchok, confined to his tiny “mud hut”, in solitude, exiled so far away from his hundreds of congregants and followers, for the most joyous and uplifting day of Simchas Torah, yet singing and dancing, solo, and expressing his deep love for the holy Torah.
19) Train Station, Shieli: The day has finally arrived, just after Pesach 1944, when the Rebbe’s parents leave Shieli, never to return. They make the long train ride to the large capital city of Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, where Reb Levi Yitzchok will spend his final four months.
In a most emotional farewell, Reb Levi Yitzchok blesses the crowd gathered, late at night, at the station, who came to spend the remaining few hours together with the Rebbe’s parents…
The film shares details of what the Rebbe’s parents did in each place, while narrating directly from the Rebbetzin’s famous handwritten memoirs. The narration of the films are the actual text of the original diaries written in Yiddish, and have a running translation of English subtitles.
This episode is sponsored by Rabbi Yitzchok and Zeesy Raskin, Burlington, Vermont
For episode 1 click here:
Sponsored by Levi & Chana Matusof, France
1) Kyzylorda Open air market: Purchasing essentials needed for everyday life.
2) Kyzylorda Military hospital: Helping obtain a military pardon for a Jew
3) Kyzylorda Train station: Traveling back and forth from Shieli and from Kyzylorda
4) Kyzylorda NKVD government building: Desperate pleas for better treatment of her husband
For episode 2 click here:
Sponsored by Sam & Bracha Stern, Brooklyn, NY
5) Entrance to Shieli village: Where Harav Levi Yitzchak arrives in middle of a freezing night and can’t find anyone to take him in
6) Shieli Train Station: Trying to purchase bread on the black market and standing trial for it
7) Shieli Train station: Rebbetzin Chana arrives to join her husband after a harrowing 5 days of travel with all her essential cargo
8) Daily visit to “The Bench”: Where the Rebbe’s parents went daily for some respite from life in the deplorable confines of the village
For episode 3 click here:
Sponsored in honor of Rabbi Levi Wolff’s 50th birthday
9) NKVD Building, Shieli: Harav Levi Yitzchak walks 4 kilometers every 10 days to register, including on Shabbos
10) Shieli Open-air Market: Where essential food items and housewares are purchased, and the tailor and the shoemaker are found
11) Shieli Government bakery: Harav Levi Yitzchok and Rebbetzin Chana wait on line every three days for many hours to receive a kilo of bread, amounting to hundreds of trips.
For episode 4 click here:
Sponsored Mendy & Seema Gansburg, Brooklyn, NY
12) Hospital Building, Shieli: Where Harav Levi Yitzchak heroically accomplishes extraordinary things for Jewish patients who are gravely ill
13) Shieli Cemetery: The non-Jewish cemetery, where Reb Levi Yitzchok himself, clandestinely helped dig graves, and arrange burials, for Jewish people who passed away tragically, and would otherwise be buried in mass graves for non-Jewish Typhus victims.
14) Post office, Shieli: This was perhaps the one place that one might say the Rebbe’s parents somewhat ‘happily’ looked forward to visiting. A place that represented a connection to the outside world, where telegrams, letters and care packages were received (including from their son, the Rebbe, already by then in New York). These brought long awaited regards, and signs of life, from family and friends, as well as vital essentials for basic life during their exile.
For episode 5 click here:
Sponsored by Haysha and Bassie Deitsch, Brooklyn, NY
15) Public School Building, Shieli: Perhaps the most unlikely place Rebbetzin Chana would visit, in her efforts to find a school-teacher that can translate an English telegram she received from her beloved children, the Rebbe and Rebbetzin, then living in New York.
16) “Mud Hut”, Shieli: Life in the dilapidated “living quarters”. Small. Cramped. Stuffy. The heat is absolutely stifling. You simply can barely breathe. The roof – flimsy and made of dry straw, the ceiling – short, the windows – small, the plain room is tiny. With no running water or electricity. It is more precisely like a prison-cell…
Can this be the so-called ‘home’ the Rebbe’s parents occupied?
The diaries were first published in the original Yiddish was in 5753, in “Tzadik Lamelech” Volume 4, edited by Rabbi Zaklikovsky. He asked and received the Rebbe’s permission and bracha to publish them. Get the set here
The Yiddish diaries were subsequently published by Kehot with footnotes etc. Translated versions of the diaries (in English, Hebrew, French, Russian and Spanish) are available on Chabad.org.
The diary in the original Yiddish can be found on Lahak.org.
Many have asked about further reading of the diaries, and they are published in English in “A mother in Israel” by Kehot: https://store.kehotonline.com/prodinfo.asp?number=EH-MOTH