Young adults living in Tomsk, Siberia gathered to hear a moving and motivational lecture given by the famous Rabbi Yosef Mendelevitch, a Jewish refusenik from the former Soviet Union, one of the ‘Prisoners of Zion’. This lecture is one in a series of 7 that Mendelevitch is giving across Russia, inspiring hundreds of young adults, filling them with Jewish pride deepening their understanding of the recent history of Jews in the FSU.
Mendelevitch is one of several lecturers traveling around Russia, speaking to young adults about various subjects in Jewish life, tradition, and history. The lecturers are brought by the YAHAD organization as part of their ‘Magid’ campaign. The word ‘Magid’ means storyteller and these traveling lecturers are similar to the Magid’s of yesteryear who would travel from town to town bringing hope and inspiration to their fellow Jews. The other lecturers include Rabbi Alexander Proshansky, Mrs. Shprintzen, Rabbi Belinitzki from the US, Rabbi Ostrovsky, and others.
“We hope to share the richness of Jewish history and tradition with young adults in the FSU so that they will feel proud of who they are and carry that message on to the next generation of Russian and Ukrainian Jewry,” said Rabbi Wilansky, Yahad’s director.
Mendelevitch stood in front of a rapt audience telling them a story of bravery and determination. How young people who were unwilling to accept the stifling control of the Communist Regime spread hope through publishing an illegal newspaper called the ‘Iton’. How he was one of several leaders in the famous ‘Dymshits-Kuznetsov aircraft hijacking affair’ that, although unsuccessful, helped spread international awareness to the horrific violations of human rights that was occurring in the Soviet Union. How he was imprisoned for 11 years, suffering terrible punishments for following Jewish law and tradition. How now, as a Rabbi in Israel, he still devotes his life to lobbying for Jewish and human rights while spreading a message of perseverance and hope.
“Meeting a ‘refusenik’ in person was so inspiring,” said one of the attendees of the lecture, “hearing how someone my age sacrificed everything for his rights and suffered terribly to practice Judaism has put my own challenges into perspective.”
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