Jewish History Soundbites
The History of Soviet Jewry Part II: Destruction & Memory

The History of Soviet Jewry Part II: Destruction & Memory

March 20, 2022

The Molotov-Von Ribbentrop non-aggression pact ultimately led to the annexation of large swaths of territory into the Soviet Union. The Jews of eastern Poland and the Baltic States now had to acclimate to the realities of Soviet Jewish life. With the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union - Operation Barbarossa - on June 22, 1941, the mass shootings of Soviet Jewry began. 

The Holocaust in the Soviet Union was unique in many respects. The Einsatzgruppen SS killing squads, along with local collaborators, murdered the Jews of the Soviet Union through mass shootings outside of the towns. Survival under Nazi occupation was rare, and was only possible by escape to the unoccupied areas of the Soviet Union or by serving in the Red Army. The Soviet government appointed the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, headed by leading Soviet Jewish writers and intellectuals. They generated publicity regarding the Holocaust, and gathered data which was eventually published as the Black Book. 

The postwar Stalinist repression of Jewish life was one of the darkest periods of Jewish history in the Soviet Union. Sustaining Jewish life became nearly impossible, and those who struggled to do so did it heroically and against all odds. 

This series on the history of Soviet Jewry is sponsored by Shuvu - Chazon Avraham, a network of schools in Israel whose student body is primarily composed of children of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Support Shuvu’s educational projects here: https://www.shuvuusa.org/donate

 

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The History of Soviet Jewry Part I: From the Pale to the Revolution

The History of Soviet Jewry Part I: From the Pale to the Revolution

March 13, 2022

The Russian Revolutions of 1917 drastically transformed the lives of the largest Jewish community in the world. Emancipation was finally achieved, the hated Czar was finally deposed and they could finally reside outside the Pale of Settlement. With the founding of the Soviet Union in 1922, new challenges arrived on the scene. The new found freedom led to widespread assimilation. Couple with the mass internal migration to urban centers, this brought a great breakdown of traditional Jewish life. The Soviet communist government was openly hostile to organized religious life, and its rabbis were hounded and exiled. 

This series on the history of Soviet Jewry is sponsored by Shuvu - Chazon Avraham, a unique network of schools in Israel whose student body is primarily composed of children of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The students represent a closing chapter of Jewish history, a bookend effect as it were as descendants of the Soviet Jews who experienced the Revolution and its results. Support Shuvu’s educational projects here: https://www.shuvuusa.org/donate

 

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Brisk Management: Another Look at Rav Chaim Brisker

Brisk Management: Another Look at Rav Chaim Brisker

March 1, 2022

Rav Chaim Soloveitchik, known as Rav Chaim Brisker (1853-1918), has enjoyed an outsized influence on the methodology of Talmudic study and the development of the modern Torah world. As a historical figure he was not only influential but beloved as well, with countless stories of his kindness, care and leadership initiative as rabbi in Brisk as well as in wider rabbinic circles across the Pale of Settlement.

From his adopting abandoned children on his doorstep to his attempts at implementing pension plans for deceased rabbis widows and orphans, his care and attention to detail bespoke the responsibility he felt towards the less fortunate of society. His Torah teaching career commenced at age 27 in the Volozhin yeshiva, and he later had informal interactions with students while in Brisk. From these oral teachings, together with a limited textual legacy in the form of his published works, his imprint on the development of the Torah world is felt until this very day. 

See previous episode about Rav Chaim Brisker: https://jsoundbites.podbean.com/e/voice-of-clarity-a-tribute-to-rav-chaim-brisker/

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From Slonim to Tverya: The Nesivos Shalom Part II

From Slonim to Tverya: The Nesivos Shalom Part II

February 23, 2022

Rav Shalom Noach Berezovsky was appointed Slonim Rebbe shortly prior to his father in law’s passing in 1981. As he had served as the rosh yeshiva of Slonim for decades, this enabled him to enjoy a close relationship with his followers who were for the most part his own students. 
The background of the Slonim dynasty has its roots in White Russia, with antecedents in the court of Rav Mordechai of Lechovitz and Rav Moshe of Kobrin. Rav Avraham Weinberg, the Yesod Ha’avodah, founded the Slonim dynasty. He was succeeded by his grandson Rav Shmuel Weinberg, who passed away in exile in Warsaw. Following World War I, his son Rav Avraham Weinberg, the Bais Avraham, reestablished the Slonim court in Baranovich. 
 
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A Teacher from Slonim: The Nesivos Shalom Part I

A Teacher from Slonim: The Nesivos Shalom Part I

February 17, 2022

The Slonim Rebbe, Rav Shalom Noach Berezovsky (1911-2000) was known by his popular work the Nesivos Shalom. Having grown up in Baranovich in the center of the Slonim chassidic dynasty, he was appointed by the rebbe the Bais Avraham to record his weekly discourses. Following his marriage and move to Tverya in 1935, he first found employment as a rosh yeshiva in Achei Temimim-Lubavitch in Tel Aviv. 

Having heard of the decimation of the Slonim community in Europe during the Holocaust, he embarked on ambitious mission: to found a Slonim yeshiva in Yerushalayim with the goal of rebuilding the chassidus. With his father in law election as the Slonim Rebbe, he was now the rosh yeshiva of a fledgling chassidic community. He then succeeded his father in law the Birkas Avraham as rebbe in 1981.

 

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From World War to Revolution: Iranian Jewry Part II

From World War to Revolution: Iranian Jewry Part II

February 12, 2022

Iranian Jewry in the 20th century saw much upheaval. The rise of the Pahlavi dynasty brought much hope to the Persian Jewish community. Iran served as a center of some important events of World War II with the Anglo-Soviet invasion of the country, as host of the Teheran Conference, the exit of the Polish Anders Army through Iran and many Jewish refugees arriving there including the famous ‘Yaldei Teheran’. 

Another period of relative stability was interrupted towards the end of the 1970’s with the Revolution and the subsequent Iran-Iraq war. Much emigration occurred around this time. Rabbi Herman Neuberger and other activists engaged in the rescue of many Iranian Jews, and this sparked a renaissance of Iranian Jewish life in the United States. Many immigrated to Israel as well. Rabbi Neuberger arranged their attendance of Ner Israel - tuition free - and many emerged as leaders of the Iranian Jewish community.

 

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Princes of Persia: Iranian Jewry Part I

Princes of Persia: Iranian Jewry Part I

February 6, 2022

The ancient Jewish community of Persia/Iran is one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world. The site of the Purim story and many Biblical and Talmudic era luminaries, it continued to flourish through times of stability and persecution. 

One of the great rabbinical leaders in the city of Hamedan, Iran in modern times was Chacham Mola David Sasson Rabban (1879-1974). As rabbi of the community he oversaw its growth and later decline in mid 20th century to widespread emigration, while corresponding with rabbis across Iran and in neighboring Iraq. He also ran the local Otzar Hatorah school, which was part of network of traditional Jewish education which facilitated the renaissance of Jewish life in Iran and later in Iranian diaspora Jewish communities.

 

This podcast is sponsored in honor of the release of the first sefer of its kind! The writings of the Av Bet Din of the city of Hamadan, Iran, Rabbi David Sasson Rabban, including a whole section on the minhagim of the Jews of Iran. Published by Machon Magen Avot publishing house, and is available on their website moroccanhalacha.com, along with all other sefarim by Machon Magen Avot. In Israel it can be obtained in the Sifria Hasefaradit Rechov Bucharim 4. https://magen-avot.myshopify.com/products/the-writings-of-chacham-rabbi-david-sasson-rabban-of-hamedan-iran

 

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Chabad & Zionism Part II

Chabad & Zionism Part II

January 30, 2022

With the passing of the fifth rebbe of Chabad the Rashab in 1920, his son Rav Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson (1880-1950), the Rayatz, or the Freidiker (previous) Rebbe, took over the Chabad-Lubavitch movement at a time of crisis. Through the decades of his leadership he expressed a commitment to the ideals of his father in regards to Zionism, while dealing with the practical upheavals of Jewish life including the Holocaust and the founding of the State of Israel.

This was continued by his son in law and successor Rav Menachem Mendel Schneerson. While in theory, the opposition to ideas such as ‘aschalta digeula’ remained, practical considerations of caring for the needs of the Jewish People and furthering Jewish observance took precedence.

Of special note was the relationship enjoyed between both Rebbe’s and the third president of the State of Israel, Zalman Shazar. 

 

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Wise Man of Hungary: Rav Yehuda Aszod

Wise Man of Hungary: Rav Yehuda Aszod

January 22, 2022

Rav Yehuda Aszod (1796-1866) was one of the architects of the emerging Hungarian Orthodoxy of the 19th century. A student of the Maharam Banet, he went to serve in the rabbinate and as a rosh yeshiva in several towns, the most prominent of which was in Dunaszerdahely in the Austrian Empire. 

Ideologically positioned between neo Orthodoxy as represented by Rav Ezriel Hildesheimer and Hungarian Ultra-Orthodoxy as represented by Rav Hillel Lichtenstein, Rav Yehuda Aszod emerged as a leader of mainstream orthodoxy along with his colleague the Ksav Sofer. For decades he confronted modernist trends, any assault on tradition, and engaged in polemics with assimilationists and reformists alike. In 1864 he headed a delegation which met with Emperor Franz Jozef I in an unsuccessful attempt to block the opening of a reformist rabbinical seminary.

 

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A Dazzling Light: The Life & Impact of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan

A Dazzling Light: The Life & Impact of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan

January 15, 2022

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (1934-1983) was a dazzling light on the Jewish history scene of the 20th century. With family origins in Thessaloniki, Greece, he was born in the Bronx, and eventually studied at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath and Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Returning to the US he became a physicist and then a pulpit rabbi, before entering the world of Jewish outreach.

In his later years he maintained a prodigious literary output, authoring a large amount of works across the gamut of Jewish thought, mysticism, chassidic thought and practical Jewish observance. Much of this was commissioned by NCSY, which is where he did much of his kiruv activities. His tragic passing at the young age of 48 cut short his life work and accomplishments, but his impact continues until today through his many published works. 

 

This episode has been sponsored by NCSY in honor of the republication of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s books. Connect more to Mitzvos and Yiddishkeit with Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan Zt”l’s republished and enhanced books. The library of 10 books covers the deeper meaning of some of the most important mitzvos. A project of NCSY in conjunction with Artscroll.

For More Information and to Buy the Books:

https://go.ncsy.org/rVOC

 

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