24 years ago, a young rabbinical student named Rabbi Moshe Heber was sent to Rostov to help rejuvenate the Jewish community, after decades of religious oppression under communism. Rabbi Heber offered classes, prayer services, and other activities to enliven the local Jewish population.
On Chanukah, 1991, close to 1000 people gathered in one of the largest halls in town for a special concert featuring Avraham Fried. It was a a tremendous display of Jewish pride, and one of the first large gatherings in the post-communist era, where hundreds of Jews joined together to openly celebrate a holiday.
After Rabbi Heber’s stay in Rostov, he passed by the Rebbe during dollars, and presented the Rebbe with a key to the city. The Rebbe gave him a dollar for the Yidden in Rostov, commenting that ‘Hashem should protect them in all respects, and they should go from strength to strength.’
Video: Rebbe gives a dollar for Jews of Rostov
A month ago Rabbi Moshe Heber finally returned to Rostov with a group of respected anash from Crown Heights who had just completed studying the Rebbe Rashab’s hemshech of Ayin Beis, and he presented the Rebbe dollar to the community.
“I waited 23 years to fulfill this shlichus. I dreamed of coming back and personally delivering this dollar from the Rebbe to the Jews of Rostov,” Rabbi Heber told Rabbi Chaim Danzinger, shliach to Rostov.
This year, during the annual Chanukah concert in Rostov attended by 1,300 people, including the Mayor of Rostov and the Vice governor, Rabbi Chaim Danzinger showed the framed dollar to the crowd saying, “The Rebbe gave this dollar to each and every one of us with a bracha 23 years ago, and we just received it now. It should give us a lot of chizuk in our day to day observance of mitzvot, especially during these trying times.”
And indeed, this year the holiday of Chanukah was filled with miracles, as the city gave permission for the first time to erect a huge 6 meter menorah in the main park located right beside city hall. Notwithstanding the cold weather, over 300 people attended the lighting ceremony.
Rostov’s youth group once again enjoyed the exciting annual ‘Chanukah on Ice’ event, as well as a fun scavenger quest with many tasks.
One of the main highlights of the holiday this year were the home visits conducted by shluchim and youth members of the community. Participants spread out to the homes of 150 elderly Jews, many of whom have no family and face great challenges in their lives, bringing them food packages, and sharing the warmth of Chanukah through song, friendly conversation, and menorah lighting.