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The Heroic Struggle

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 by FREE 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.

Click here to view a PDF of The Heroic Struggle
This Book is available online at FREE Publishing House Bookstore.

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