Arriving in Israel last week on a flight sponsored Keren L’Yedidut carrying 107 new olim from France was a family who lived in a special home in Paris that belonged to the mother of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. A project manager and optician, Yael and Boaz Cohen moved out of the home to Israel.
The Cohens experienced a major crisis when their Parisian home went up in flames in 2004. They were a young couple with a baby who found themselves with all of their memories incinerated and without a place to live.
Many members of their community, including Yael’s work place at the time, joined together to help the young couple and in a joint effort, a modest apartment was located in a high-rise building about a year after the fire.
“We lived in the apartment and had no idea what its historical value was,” said Boaz, who had come to Israel before the rest of the family in search of an apartment and a profession ahead of time. “One day, a completely random day, there was a knock on the door and through the door viewer, we saw a man standing there who looked like a Chabad Chasid. We opened the door, and he looked very excited.”
On the other side of the door stood Rabbi Shmuel Butman, who had been researching the life of the Rebbe. For a while, he tried to locate the exact location of his mother’s house in Paris. Eventually, Rabbi Butman managed to enter a residential building where he went from door to door until he found one with a mezuzah.
Without hesitation, he knocked on the door and was amazed to discover that the occupants of the apartment at that time were Jews themselves. “This is a house of great significance for the Chabad Chasidim, since the Rebbe would come to this place twice a day and would also give lectures here from time to time.”
In 1933, Rabbi Schneerson, the seventh Rebbe of Chabad, arrived with his wife in Paris where he studied for a degree in electrical engineering at the Sorbonne University. As the Nazi occupation of France progressed, Rabbi Schneerson and his wife fled to the United States where he was appointed head of Chabad’s educational institutions.
During those years, Rabbi Schneerson’s mother lived in the Ukraine and after she was widowed, fled the communist regime to Paris in 1947. At that time, the Lubavitcher Rebbe returned to Paris to stay with his mother until she was able to join him in the United States.
The Cohens stayed in the home of Rebbetzin Schneerson until their aliyah (move to Israel) last week, a move they made in an attempt to improve their children’s future. “We came to the home by accident, but we received many visitors ever since it was revealed that we were living in the home of Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson,” said Boaz Cohen. “Today we are leaving our house in France and making aliyah to our new home in Israel. Despite our departure from this special home, we are determined to move to Israel, to Jerusalem and to join our extended family.”