By COLlive reporter
Mrs. Rosa Melamed, who passed away this week in Israel at the age of 93, was the last living person to meet the Frierdiker Rebbe after being pardoned from his death sentence in Communist Russia.
Melamed was the daughter of Rabbi Yerachmiel Kugel, the Chassidic shochet in Kastroma on the Volga River, a remote city deep in the interior of Russia, where the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe was exiled.
The Frierdiker Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, was warmly welcomed to the Kugel’s home upon the overturning of his sentence following international pressure in 1927.
The Kugels hosted the Rebbe for 10 days until his 3 year exile was also overturned. Staying with him were his son in law Rabbi Shmaryahu Gurary, his daughter Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson and the known chossid, R’ Eliyahu Chaim Althaus.
Melamed was 12 years old at the time and for many years later she remembered that special stay in her parents’ home at Nikitaskia 3. “The Rebbe would speak to the people in a very gentle and quiet voice and would bless everyone,” she recalled.
“There was lots of excitement and commotion in the city,” she recalled. “Even the gentiles came out to see ‘the man of G-d.’ I remember how people stood on the roofs and around the fences.”
“Our home hosted the Rebbe and his entourage. It was a large house and the Rebbe had been assigned a special room. When the Rebbe went out to the street, and the Christians would see him, they would clear the way out of respect.”
She said that “although he was here for only 10 days, it was a great joy that they chose our house as the place to host him. In our home all the food was kosher. We were the only family in the city whose food was kosher l’mehadrin.”
She remembers that some of the Jewish neighbors hesitated to visit the Rebbe. “They would say, ‘We are not worthy to even talk to him’,” she recalled. One of the people who came to watch the Rebbe was a Russian Orthodox priest.
On Tuesday, the 12th of Tammuz (July 12), the Rebbe appeared at the headquarters of the G.P.U. for his obligatory weekly appearance, when an official greeted him genially and informed him of his release.
“You are totally freed from the need of any further appearances. The order has been received to grant you full freedom, and I regard it as a personal privilege to be the first one to inform you of your complete amnesty,” the person told the Rebbe.
Melamed remembers that after the Rebbe had left the city to Leningrad, her father was interrogated, tortured and sentenced to 10 years of exile in Siberia.
Melamed’s descendants are members of the Jewish community in Kastroma, led by Shliach Rabbi Nissan Rupo. In her later years she immigrated to Israel and settled in Beer Sheva where she passed away on Sunday.
Baruch dayan haemes.