Sunday, September 25, 2022

Teaneck—It isn’t often that a modern-day Maccabee arrives in Teaneck area scant days before Chanukah, but that’s just what will happen on Shabbat/November 15-16.

Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich is a genuine Jewish hero. A founder of Riga’s Jewish underground under oppressive Soviet rule in the mid-20th century, he and a group of daring colleagues planned to steal a Russian civilian airplane and fly it under the USSR’s radar to freedom. But the KGB secret police found out, and arrested the 12 plotters as they were about to board the plane at a Leningrad airport.

Their trial in 1970 riveted world attention on Soviet Jews desperate to immigrate to Israel. After international protests, the Kremlin backed off from the two death sentences meted out, but still imposed long years of punishment in the notorious Gulag of prisons and labor camps. Mendelevich was sentenced to 13 years.

Mendelevich’s defiance of his captors in the hell of the Gulag became legendary,as he constantly deepened his love for Israel and his emunah (faith), his insistence on covering his head, keeping Shabbat and observing the commandments to the extent possible. Finally, after a 56-day hunger strike, and over a decade of Western protests on his behalf, he was suddenly, miraculously released and flown to an ecstatic reception in Israel.

In freedom in the Jewish state, Mendelevich fulfilled his dreams of serving in the IDF, married and became the father of seven, and obtained his smicha (rabbinic degree). Today he happily teaches Torah in Jerusalem, and is the author of his acclaimed autobiography, Unbroken Spirit.

Rabbi Mendelevich, who speaks English, has the extraordinary ability to connect with audiences young and old as he relates his life story. He will speak on Friday night, November 15th, 8 pm, at an oneg shabbat at Congregation Beth Abraham, 396 New Bridge Road, Bergenfield. He will speak on Shabbat morning, November 16th, at the 9:10 am early minyan and 10:30 a.m. main minyan at Congregation Rinat Yisrael, 389 West Englewood Avenue, Teaneck. He will also speak at seuda shlisheet after a 4 p.m. mincha at Congregation Keter Torah, 600 Roemer Avenue, Teaneck.

On Saturday evening, Rabbi Mendelevich will sign copies of his autobiography from 7:30 - 10 p.m. at the Teaneck General Store, 502A Cedar Lane, Teaneck.

For more information, contact (917) 405-9211.

By Fran Gozland

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