The Jewish map of Kazakhstan is booming with an unprecedented renaissance. From the eastern corner to the western corner. From north to south. The cities across Kazakhstan with a new Chabad Jewish presence, new Chabad Houses, serving the physical and spiritual needs of Kazakhstan Jewry, is astonishing by all accounts.
Kazakhstan, part of Asia, was once a country under the ruthless communist soviet regime. A country to where hundreds of thousands of refugees escaped during World War Two. Many Jews were exiled by the barbaric communist to Kazakhstan. Tens of Chabad Chassidim who sacrificed their life to defend Torah Judaism were forced to this far flung part of the globe.
The heroic Jewish leader and Chief Rabbi of Dnepropetrovsk Ukraine, the Rebbe′s father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, fearlessly kept the shining light of Judaism burning brightly. Triumphing over the dark forces of communism. Judaism in Ukraine and Russia survived and outlives the communist. The price was big. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was exiled to Kazakhstan. His holy resting place is in Alma Ata.
The story of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak and his illustrious wife Rebbetzin Chana, is a story of heroic Jewish leadership. Their story warrants a self-standing biography filled with Jewish pride, fearless commitment and steadfast dedication to Jewish continuity and celebration.
It is the seeds which were planted in unspeakable pain and suffering by the Rebbe′s parents in Kazakhstan, which are blossoming into beautiful Jewish communities across Kazakhstan. A new Jewish Kazakhstan is emerging. The Rebbe and his network of personal representatives are infusing cities across Kazakhstan with a vibrant pulsating Jewish life.
The Chabad Lubavitch headquarters of Kazakhstan, Asia, located in Alma Ata, is a center of unity amongst the Shluchim with a love for every Jew. The Rebbe′s emissaries track every part of Kazakhstan and help Jews of Kazakhstan in every possible way. With more than ten Shluchim families and an army of volunteers, Chabad has Jewish Kazakhstan covered. The success continues to grow.
In honor of the upcoming anniversary of the Rebbe′s father Hillula on the twentieth of Av, corresponding to August 24, a special filled day of programming and events will take place in honor of the Rebbe′s father.
The following is excerpts of an interview with Rabbi Mordechei Cohen, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Lubavitch Yeshiva at the Levi Yitzchak synagogue in Alma Ata. The interview is part of a new project, “Shliach Inspiration”.
- What are your thoughts about Alma Ata?
- Alma Ata is the Rebbe′s father′s city. The city where the Rebbe′s parents found refuge after four years of exile in the remote Kazakhstan village Chi′ilI. Alma Ata was a beacon of light at the end of the tunnel. Immediately upon his arrival the Rebbe′s father devoted himself to the Jewish community of Alma Ata. The community is forever thankful.
- What does the Rebbe′s father′s holy resting place in Alma Ata mean to you?
- It is dear to the Rebbe. The Rebbe′s appreciation and gratitude to all who helped honor his father′s holy resting place is legendary. It is the pride of our city and our country. It′s the source which keeps our community connected to the Rebbe.
- How many years are you in Alma Ata?
- Four and a half years.
- The Rebbe′s father′s Hakofos song is sung around the world. It is the Chabad Lubavitch favorite in Alma Ata. What are your personal feelings regarding the song?
- It′s a song of triumph. A song of a victory march. It expresses the Rebbe′s father victory, as he fearlessly and courageously fought the communist to defend Judaism. It is emotionally and spiritually uplifting to sing this song in this city, in freedom with Jewish pride.
- You dedicated your life to reach Jewish souls in Alma Ata. Can you share an inspirational moment?
- On the first night of the holiday of Sukkot at 11:00pm a fellow walked in to our community Sukkah. He explained that he retrieved yesterday my voice mail to him about a midnight prayer of forgiveness. As such he anxiously arrived an hour early. I was astounded. I have not called him yesterday. Then it hit me. A month ago I called him to invite him to the pre Rosh Hashono Slichot midnight prayer. He just got the voice mail yesterday. It inspired me to realize that a month old invitation for a midnight prayer of forgiveness translated into a happy multiple day Sukkot celebration.
- Please tell us about your Yeshiva students?
- The students are a blessing. They are Lamplighters. They illuminate our city with the warmth and beauty of Torah Judaism.
- What is the “call of the hour”?
- No Jew will be left behind. Men women and children. Local residents or traveling guest. The soul of every Jew is beloved and holy. Preparing the world for Moshiach. Connecting every Jew to “the tree of life”.
- Can you share an unforgettable moment?
- The visit to Chi′ili. The remote Kazakhstan village where the Rebbe′s parent were exiled for 4 years. The detailed heartbreaking memoirs of the Rebbe′s mother, the mother of royalty, describing those painful years are etched deeply in heart and soul.
- What are the traveling assignments of the “Student Shluchim”?
- The Student Shluchim are incredible life lines to Jews in remote cities and villages across Kazakhstan which as of yet do not have a permanent Shliach. The students travel and happily share the joy and meaning of Judaism with every Jew they meet. They welcome and embrace every Jew with unconditional love.
- The Rebbe′s father is famous for his extraordinary brilliance and scholarship. Especially in Kaballistic teachings. Much of which he wrote during his exile in Kazakhstan. The Yeshiva and the synagogue classes have a special focus on his teachings. Can you share some insight?
- When one attempts to study Rabbi Levi Yitzchak′s Torah teachings, it is incredibly challenging to grasp the depth of his teachings. The unity of Torah, expresses itself in all aspects of his teachings. From the mystical passages of the holy Zohar, to the insights and elucidation of Talmud, Midrash and Tanya. One can merit a taste of the beauty and genius of the tapestry of the divine wisdom and divine providence as explained in his teachings. The Rebbe encourages us all to study his father′s teachings which were fortunately documented thanks to the devotion and self-sacrifice of Rebbetzin Chana. As we approach the holy day of Chof Av it is a special opportunity to study his teachings. Especially that there are many new publications dedicated to explaining these holy teachings.
- What does the holy day of Chof Av mean to you as a Shliach in Alma Ata?
- It is a day of unique inspiration. To honor the life of the Rebbe′s father. It is a day to focus on the self-sacrifice of a true Jewish leader who cared for every Jew even at his own expense and grave danger. We in Alma Ata are blessed to be Shluchim in close proximity to his holy resting place. The Rebbe made a Farbrengen every year on this day to honor his father and inspired us to strengthen Torah Judaism. To reach every Jew. Our community has a special respect, affection, gratitude and connection to the Rebbe′s father.
- How are you and your fellow Kazakhstan Shluchim preparing for Chof Av?
- With a “Shturem”, we are preparing a day full of programs and community wide events, especially being that this is a Hakhel year.
We are blessed to continue the fifth consecutive year of having a special Yeshiva program, Oholei Levi Yitzchak, in honor of Chof Av in close proximity to the holy Ohel. The students will divide the 24 hours of Chof Av into shifts in order to have continuous prayer at the holy resting place. We will be doubling the amount of students in the Yeshiva. Students from across Israel who have excelled for many months in Torah study with a special emphasis on the Torah of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak will be arriving to Alma Ata in honor of the Rebbe′s father.
We wish you much success in your holy work in hastening the revelation of Moshiach.