BROOKLYN, NY — Wednesday, March 01, 2006
by Ray Kestenbaum
The Heroic Struggle—The dramatic story of the
imprisonment and release of the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe,
Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Schneersohn, in 250 pages. Published
Publishing House, a division of FREE (Friends of
Refugees of Eastern Europe), Tel. (718) 467-0860, in Shvat
of 5766 (2006). Text is in Russian with an English Foreword.
The original Hebrew and English text was put out by Kehot
Publication Society, (718) 778-0226.
The recent collapse of Russian Communism was soon followed
by a Jewish re-identification and a sweeping resurgence of
open religious observance. These striking changes followed
70 years of Soviet religious suppression.
Religious feeling and observance had been driven underground
for decades but was kept alive by a strong “Jewish
underground.” At the center of the struggle for Jewish
survival was the giant persona of the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe,
Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Schneersohn (1880-1950), of Blessed Memory.
It was the Previous Rebbe who led the harbozat hayahadut,
the spread of Yiddishkeit, in those dark years right under
the nose of the cruel, dictatorial Soviet regime. But he
paid a heavy price for his activism, and that’s what
this book is about. His leadership and resistance to the
NKVD, the Soviet secret police, and the Yevsektzia, the Communist
Party’s Jewish Affairs office, led to his arrest, imprisonment
and torture several times.
But he stood firm in his religious conviction and opposed
the tyranny of the Soviet authorities. The Rebbe’s
resistance to the Communist gangsters was capped in 1927
when he was arrested for “counter-revolutionary activity” and
jailed. However, international pressure resulted in his release
and later his banishment from Russia.
In remembrance of the Rebbe’s heroic acts, the Chassidic
community marks the 12th and 13th of Tammuz as the days commemorating
his ordeal and celebrating his release. Even after he left
Russia he continued leading the Jewish resistance from abroad.
Ultimately his activities laid the foundation for the current
Jewish revival, which took place under the leadership of
his son-in-law and successor, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
The Previous Rebbe recorded the events of his arrest and
the days that followed and put together a compendium of events
but years later in Poland during his flight from the Nazis
the booklet was lost. Rabbi Menachem Mendel, however, was
able to retrieve the story by painstakingly copying from
his father-in-law’s notes.
The Heroic Struggle is based on Rabbi Menachem Mendel’s
copied narrative. After Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak arrived in the
U.S. he thanked his son-in-law for saving the historic notes.
They are a rich source, providing insight into the many facets
of a deeply spiritual personality.
The book describes in remarkable detail the process of terror
and the courage mustered in the face of his captors. Rabbi
Yosef Yitzchak often said that he took notes to share them
with his followers to show how Chassidus offers courage and
spiritual support to those who are subjected to physical
and mental tortures.
The main section of this book was originally published by
FREE in 1980 under the title “Notations of the Arrest” (Reshimat
Hama’ser). In the English of the original, several
appendices were added. They were written by Rabbi Dr. Alter
B. Metzger. The book was published by Kehot in 1999.
The current Russian-language book, The Heroic Struggle,
is a revision of the original book and includes in it Dr.
Metzger’s appendices, which provide samples of Rabbi
Yosef Yitshak’s writings and discourses and those of
his successor on the spiritual significance of imprisonment.
Many thanks go to Rabbi Ezra Hovkin for his extensive editorial
work on the book and to a host of writers, editors and designers
close to FREE for their exceptional contributions. Much appreciation
is extended to Rabbi Shalom B. Levin, Head Librarian of the
Agudas Chassidai Chabad Library for making available the
original Russian and related documents and photographs.
Particular thanks go to FREE’s Chairman Rabbi Mayer
Okunov for his assistance and to Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Okunov,
Director of the FREE Publishing House, for directing the
project and bringing it to fruition.
here to view a PDF of The Heroic Struggle
Book is available online at FREE
Publishing House Bookstore.
Back to Top