Against all odds the with Yosef Mendelevich last Sunday at the Chabad Knesset.
At age 22 Yosef, participated in an attempt to hijack a lane to the west, to raise awareness about the desperate plight of Soviet Jews. He was arrested before the plane ever left the ground and spend 12 years in Soviet prisons. This person who stood up against the soviet union the right to be a Jew. He spent 12 years in prison, for being a Jew, and wanting to live as a Jew. In prison with no access of Jewish items to worship and keep the Jewish way of life. He took a handkerchief to make a Kippa, raisins make wine for shabbats for Bracha, cutting off. How when giving the choice of the KGB level to be an assimilated Russian or a jew, he saw that behaving as a Jew was the premises that completed his process be in connection with hasham, which now in prison he was happy because he lived as a Jew.
He expressed so much of his connection of am yisrael, chai, that the spirit of that connection kept him going. I my self with my brother Kalman, were arrested in Washington DC in 1972 for standing up for Soviet Jewry to let my people go and be free. When we marched down in the thousands singing am Israel chai, we were proud of who we are as a person. Now when I listened to Yosef talk, I saw after all those years since the protest in DC, what am Israel really meant to someone who spent his life fighting as a symbol all those years in prison. He lost so much, even his father died when he was in prison, for sacrificing almost his life to be a free Jew.
We in this country have such wonderful display to be who we are, and we need to be ever so grateful of who we are, and never take it for granted. Yosef found a nail in the prison in the wall of his cell, and took that nail, and carved out in the stone walls of that prison the shapes of shabbats candles so he could do the blessings for shabbat remember that kol israel, when your home on Friday night, is illuminating the glow and torch of our shabbats candles of our souls as Jews and people like Yosef, has carved out for us, am israel chai.
In honor of the yahrtzeit of Rebbetzin Shaina Charitonow
Nathan (Nachum) Sull