Students at the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway were privileged to meet Rabbi Yosef Menedelvitch, a former refusenik who shared his incredible story of resilience and fighting for Judaism.
Rabbi Menedelvitch’s visit on May 2 began with a meeting in Principal Joshua Gold’s office with students of Russian descent. Later, Rabbi Menedelvitch spoke to students in the Middle School, sharing his empowering story.
Dr. Yali Werzberger introduced Rabbi Menedelvitch by tying in his story to the persecution and lengths to which the Jewish people go to keep the Torah, throughout the centuries.
Rabbi Mendedelvitch spoke about how he participated in an operation to hijack a plane in order to escape the Soviet Union at age 22. He was caught and spent the next 11 years in a Soviet Gulag. However, even during his imprisonment, Rabbi Menedelvitch never lost his faith or his commitment to being Jewish.
Rabbi Mendelevtich’s story of fighting for Jewish practices in the Soviet Union struck a chord with HAFTR students. Rabbi Menedelvitch shared how he and his friend Shimon would make kippahs out of Shimon’s pants, and how he turned a matchbox into a siddur so that he could pray while in the work camp.
After his talk, Rabbi Menedelvitch greeted and gave each student an individual bracha, leaving them with a message of hope and determination. His was a reminder of the importance of being a proud Jew and never losing faith, even in the face of adversity.
The school was honored to have him share his story and inspire the students with his resilience.