By COLlive reporter
Spanning three continents, the untold story of Russian Jewry’s heroic triumph over years of Communism is now being meticulously documented by Jewish Educational Media (JEM).
Refusniks, U.S. and Israeli government agents, heads of Jewish organizations involved in the struggle for Soviet Jewry, and Chassidim who traveled incognito as “tourists” are providing testimony of a time which ended barely two decades ago, but is quickly turning into “ancient history.”
JEM’s ‘My Encounter with the Rebbe’ oral history project has set out on an ambitious project to interview key players in the struggle for Soviet Jewry.
Yechiel Cagen and others have already interviewed Chassidim, government and Jewish officials who worked behind the Iron Curtain, such as Malcolm Hoenlein of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and Israeli diplomats Meir Rosen and Dovid Rivlin.
Other interviewees were those “nameless” individuals who were part of the dangerous struggle to keep the flame of Judaism alive.
“Many of their compatriots in the struggle cannot tell their stories, having been sent to Siberia never-to-return,” Cagen, the project’s director, notes.
The project staff have researched dozens of tips sent their way, including many that were given by Chabad-Lubavitch Shluchim across the former Soviet Union.
One of the more unique interviews already conducted was with Mrs. Rosa Melamed, a 95 year-old Jewish woman who remembers 10 days the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn spent as a guest in their home.
As known, the Rebbe Rayatz was arrested and imprisoned in 1927 in the Spalerno prison in Leningrad, accused of counter-revolutionary activities, and sentenced to death.
Following a storm of outrage and pressure from Western governments and the International Red Cross, the communist regime was forced to commute the death sentence and instead (on 3 Tammuz) it banished him to Kostroma in the Urals for a sentence of 3 years (later changed too).
Melamed, who was interviewed by JEM from the home of her daughter in Beer Sheva, Israel, said her father was Kostroma’s schochet and the Rebbe was comfortable enough to stay in their home for a short while.
The ‘My Encounter with the Rebbe’ team is asking for help in locating more stories. If you have any ideas of important interviews to be recorded, please contact [email protected]