By COLlive reporter
Over 70 years ago, Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson escaped from behind the Iron Curtain and made her way to Paris, France, where she waited for the necessary documents to be arranged that would allow her to travel to the United States.
As soon as her son, the Rebbe—who had arrived in New York five years earlier—found out about these developments, he began to send letters and telegrams to the Chassidim in Paris, and in particular to the Chassidim involved in assisting the European refugees after World War II.
Around two years after the death of her husband, Reb Levi Yitzchak, Rebbetzin Chana left Alma Ata and journeyed to Moscow, where she stayed in the home of the Chossid Reb Berl Rikman.
At that time, the Soviet government granted permission to Polish refugees to return to Poland. Many Lubavitchers used the opportunity to leave Russia with forged Polish documents, joining specially arranged transports. At first Rebbetzin Chana refused to follow suit, opting instead to submit a formal request to leave the country, and hoping she would be able to immigrate legally. When she saw that permission was not forthcoming, she agreed to join one of these groups, crossing the Polish border and making her way first to the Pocking, Germany, D.P. camp and from there to Paris.
In what would be the last time he left the State of New York, the Rebbe flew to Paris to oversee the arranging of the necessary papers that would enable his mother to join him in the United States. During his three-month stay (from 26 Adar to 21 Sivan), the Rebbe stayed at Hotel Edouard 7, visiting his mother, who was residing at the home of their relative, Rabbi Zalman Schneersohn, twice daily.
On Shabbos and Yom Tov the Rebbe would daven in the shul located in Rabbi Schneersohn’s building, joining his mother for the Shabbos and Yom Tov meals. Finally, once all the necessary documents had been secured, the Rebbe traveled with his mother by boat, arriving in New York on 28 Sivan, 5707.
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As the primary askan entrusted with assisting the Chassidim who were now refugees in Europe, Rabbi Binyamin Gorodetzky was heavily involved in all the necessary arrangements on behalf of Rebbetzin Chana. He kept an ongoing correspondence with the Rebbe, as well as with the Frierdiker Rebbe, who was also kept up to date with the latest developments.
Today, on erev Vov Tishrei, Rebbetzin Chana’s fifty-third yahrtzeit, Lahak’s Igros Kodesh division is proud to release two handwritten letters and three English telegrams sent by the Rebbe to Rabbi Gorodetzky concerning his mother.
These letters and telegrams will be published in a special kuntres, along with the sichos delivered by the Rebbe on his mother’s seventh yahrtzeit, Vov Tishrei 5732.
During that farbrengen, the Rebbe expounded on his father’s haoros on the Zohar of that week’s parshah. As is well known, these haoros were written thanks to the courage of Rebbetzin Chana, who prepared the ink herself using wild grasses and berries. Risking her life, she took her husband’s writings with her throughout her travels, until they reached the hands of the Rebbe, who published them a few years after her passing.
At that farbrengen, the Rebbe also spoke about the greatness of the Jewish woman and her role as the akeres habayis. Another sichah contains an exposition of the original Chana’s prayer, said during the haftorah on the first day of Rosh Hashanah.
When perusing these letters and telegrams (sent over the course of the fall and winter of 5707), the reader is overcome by the tremendous kibbud eim expressed by the Rebbe toward his mother.
The Rebbe asks Rabbi Gorodetzky to assist his mother in every way possible; instructs him to spend whatever necessary, stating he would cover all costs; asks how his mother is feeling; and expresses concern over the delay in her relocating from Pocking to Paris.
Interestingly, although most letters written at that time were written on the stationary of one of the three mosdos headed by the Rebbe (Merkos L’Inyanei Chinuch, Machane Yisrael, and Kehos), these letter are written on regular stationary.
The release of these letters and telegrams, from the archives of Rabbi Binyamin Gorodetzky, the representative of the Rebbeim to Europe and North Africa, is courtesy of his son Rabbi Sholom Ber Gorodetzky, the chairman of the Lubavitch European lishkah in Paris, and his grandson, the shliach Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Gorodetzky, the lishkah’s administrator.