No glory in abandoning Russian Jewry
The repeated attacks against Chabad and Rabbi Berel Lazar for servicing the Russian Jewish community should have each and every one of us asking: if our own country were taken over by a totalitarian war criminal who waged war against another country and isolated us from the world, what would we want our own rabbi to be doing. Defamatory revisionist history propagated against Chabad in outlets ranging from Politico to Ha’aretz have led this false charge against Chabad for their crime of remaining in Russia and servicing more than 175,000 Russian Jews – a community larger than the UK’s Jewish community. Mark Twain famously said: “A lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is lacing up its boots. In addition to the underlying defamatory oped in Ha’aretz titled “Chabad’s Long Faustian Bargain With Russia and Putin,” the author Lev Stesin writes: “Had the Soviets accommodated the Rebbe’s very modest demands and thus preserved some semblance of Jewish religious life, as they did with most other religious groups, the life of Soviet Jews could have been very different. But that compromise was not to be, as the Bolsheviks viewed Jews not as a nation but as a class to be eliminated. Personally, as someone whose family is on record fighting against Russia’s evils for more than a century, I find these repeated attacks against Chabad to be personally and historically unforgivable. My great-great grandfather was Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Spair, the Chief Rabbi of Saratov in Russia.
My great grandfather, Rabbi Eliezer Poupko, was the rabbi of Velizh in the Smolensk Oblast. In those years, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, was also engaged in vitalizing Jewish life in Soviet Russia and was being monitored and pursued by the Jewish section of the KGB, the Yevsektsia. The idea that anyone would imply that Chabad has a history of collaborating with the Russian government when its leaders and the movement have literally given their lives in defiance of the Russian government, placing their highest and steadfast devotion to nothing other than Judaism and the Jewish people is beyond insulting. Luckily his brother-in-law was Louis Raskas, owner of the Raskas Dairy Company in St. In 1931, with the help of the Raskas family and the Joint Distribution Committee, my family was able to escape Russia into Poland and then to America. In 1961, my grandfather Rabbi Bernard Poupko was one of the first Jews to visit Russian Jews in an official capacity. “My report will never be complete…there are some people who have done more than we did, and no one knows about it.
“What is being done and how will be a most terrible thing to discuss here right now. My grandfather was not able to elaborate, but by now, it is well-known and largely documented. A 1964 New York Times article documented some of the similarities and differences between my grandfather and the following Lubavitcher Rebbe (Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson). Calls on Rabbi Berel Lazar to do anything other than serve his community are in poor taste. Vladimir Putin is a war criminal, and Russia must be held accountable for its actions in Ukraine. Sláva Ukrayíni, may God bless America, and may God bless Chabad Shluchim, who are doing God’s work no matter where they are.
Read full article at The Times of Israel