By COLlive reporter
Rebbetzin Sofya Kogan, who is credited with keeping the Jewish flame alive amongst Moscow’s Jews, passed away Tuesday.
She suffered from a sudden heart attack. She was 65.
Gentle, brave and dedicated, she was a dedicated partner with her legendary husband Rabbi Yitzchak Kogan, in the communist era and thereafter.
In 1972, Kogan’s family applied for emigration to Israel and was refused an exit visa because of his sensitive military job as a nuclear submarines engineer and his “anti-Soviet activity,” JTA wrote in a profile article about the rabbi.
Being refused permission to emigrate, Kogan says, “meant to become an outcast of the society.” Sofya, a prominent dentist heading a department at a large hospital, was also dismissed.
For many Leningrad Jews at the time, Rabbi Kogan became a symbol of spiritual resistance to the regime. His figure still remains a kind of a legend for many in the Chabad movement, earning him a reputation as a tzadik.
It took Kogan 14 years to receive permission to leave the country. In 1989, he and his family made aliyah. The very next year Kogan returned to Russia with a mandate from the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
“I didn’t want to go,” Kogan says. “It was very hard and unpleasant to go back, when it took us 14 years to leave.”
It took him time, he says, to realize that a void in the Jewish community still had to be filled even after the collapse of communism.
Rabbi Kogan is today the spiritual leader Bolshaya Bronnaya Synagogue and a member of the Agudas Chasidei Chabad of Russia.
The Jewish community in Moscow and thousands of Rabbi Kogan’s students received the news in shock.
“We are crying here with the family and are not stopping to pray in her memory,” a former student told COLlive. “We all respected and admired her.”
Another one wrote: “In the last three years she was busy with building a woman’s mikvah,” a former students said. “She didn’t rest and wanted it to be beautiful and comfortable.”
The Mikvah is in its last stages.
She is survived by her husband and five children, three of whom remain in Israel, and two of whom live in Moscow. The funeral will take place in Israel.