GATHERING JEWISH SOULS IN KAZAKHSTAN
August 8, 2018
Nosson Avrohom in #1130, Life on Shlichus

In the summer, it gets very hot there. During the winter season, temperatures can drop as low as forty degrees below zero. Nevertheless, a young couple and their small children came to Kostanay, far from all Jewish centers, fighting against the heat and the cold, also of a spiritual nature, for the purpose of reaching another Jewish soul, all with great determination and tenacity. The story of a shlichus under very harsh conditions.

Translated by Michoel Leib Dobry

The Rebbe’s shluchim in Kazakhstan standing before the ornate great synagogue in Kostanay

Kostanay is a large provincial city, including six towns and twenty villages, situated in northern Kazakhstan. In contrast to other large cities in the former Soviet bloc, Kostanay has virtually no history of traditional Jewish life. “Kazakhstan is the country where the Communists would send their political opponents into exile. Located along the border with Russia, Kostanay was one of the exile cities,” says the shliach, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Zalmanov.

In other cities in Kazakhstan along the Silk Road, there were established Jewish communities whose members dealt in commerce. Kostanay, however, had very few Jews and there was no organized community there.

In recent years, with the arrival of Rabbi Zalmanov, his wife Devorah, and their two children, the small Jewish community of Kostanay has experienced a genuine renaissance. The vigorous shluchim have set up a vast array of outreach activities in greater Kostanay and in nearby cities such as Rudny and Lisakovsk. They operate a magnificent synagogue, a mikveh, a kosher dining hall, and clubs for Jewish men, women, boys, and girls. In addition, there are educational programs all hours of the day, such as home visits, Mezuzah Campaign activities, and more. Just last year, Kostanay hosted a shluchim conference for all of the Rebbe’s emissaries in Kazakhstan. During the conference, they dedicated a kosher food market in the city.

A DIFFICULT BEGINNING

Rabbi Zalmanov, the son of the chassid Rabbi Moshe Zalmanov from Migdal HaEmek, knows quite well about the work of shlichus in the former Soviet Union. This is also because he is the grandson of the head shliach and chief rabbi of Moldova, Rabbi Zalman Tuvia HaKohen Abelsky, of blessed memory, who imbued him with the spirit of shlichus. “At the age of fourteen, I traveled to Moldova for the first time and I have worked on shlichus there several times, serving as a helper and assistant to the local shliach. Before my wedding, I was on shlichus there for several years running.”

After establishing his home together with his wife, Devorah, daughter of the Rebbe’s shliach in Beit Shemesh, Rabbi Eliezer Weiner, they traveled several times to Moldova on shlichus for the Jewish holidays. It was clear to both, who had been raised in the field of shlichus, that their lives were designated for this purpose. After completing his kollel studies in Kfar Chabad, they went on shlichus to Beit Shemesh, where they assisted in the activities sponsored by the city’s Chabad Houses, run by his father-in-law, Rabbi Weiner.

After considering several shlichus proposals, they received an offer from Rabbi Yeshaya Cohen, the Rebbe MH”M’s emissary to Kazakhstan, and his brother Elchanan, to serve in the Kostanay region. Numerous activities had been conducted in this city, including the construction of a Chabad-Lubavitch synagogue, and now a search was underway for a young couple to serve as full-time shluchim there. The initial doubts that naturally come before making such an important decision were quickly replaced by a flurry of activity. “The challenges with shlichus in Kostanay are great, and that’s why we’re here.”

The job of the shluchim is to illuminate the darkness and build a foundation for Jewish life. Many of the city’s Jews don’t know anything about their Jewish identity, and many of those who do know are devout atheists. “While we encountered many challenges during our first months in Kostanay, we also had the Rebbe’s brachos to support us during all the difficulties we experienced. The biggest challenge was to earn the acceptance of the community leaders, who naturally weren’t all that pleased about the arrival of a new rabbi and who would undoubtedly interfere with their work.

“We can look back now and laugh, as today we are good friends with the local leaders, who have tremendous appreciation for our work. It’s amazing to recall how at an event organized by the heads of the Kostanay community a few months after our arrival shortly before Rosh Hashanah, we weren’t even invited. Nevertheless, we came to the location and set up a t’fillin stand at the entrance. Many Jews passed by, happily agreed to put on t’fillin, and even took informational brochures about the upcoming Tishrei holiday season. We were invited to the next event, and since then, we have been honored to open every event with a d’var Torah. The community head has become quite friendly with us and we have honored him during t’fillos and at Chabad House events.”

One difficulty that the Zalmanovs faced in the early days of their shlichus was the intense cold prevailing throughout Kazakhstan during the winter and early spring. “The cold here reaches around thirty below zero Celsius and can sometimes go as low as minus forty. During the long winter months, the streets are covered with a heavy layer of snow. While we didn’t exactly grow up with this in Eretz Yisroel, we did learn how to manage with the passage of time. There are days when only a few minutes after pouring a cup of water, its contents turn into ice.”

Kazakhstan is officially a Muslim country, and every city is filled with mosques and the sounds of the muezzin can be heard morning, noon, and night. According to Rabbi Zalmanov, he feels a great sense of Jewish pride every time that he takes note of the community’s magnificent synagogue. “The country fights extremists, and in this regard, we have been accepted warmly by the local population, which respects us greatly. Journalists from leading newspapers always come to interview us before the holidays and other prominent Jewish dates, providing us with a platform to convey Jewish messages of the Redemption.”

Within a few months after the family’s arrival in the city, their activities began to take shape, and they have only grown since then. “The most distinctive activities characterizing our outreach programs are our home visits. It is the secret to our success in gathering these lost souls. As a result of the home visits we conduct, we have succeeded in connecting more and more Jews to their Judaism, and they eventually come for our prayer services, which take place weekdays, Shabbos, and on Jewish holidays.

“Similarly, we operate a kollel named in memory of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneersohn, of blessed memory, for men who come to daven Shacharis each morning. Along with the classes in Torah and Chassidus, they receive a nourishing meal and a monetary stipend. There’s also a club for women named for Rebbetzin Chana and regular activities for local youth. We also prepare daily kosher food packages for needy individuals.

Naturally, there is a special status for those activities established in memory of the Rebbe’s parents, who sowed the land of Kazakhstan with their tears and self-sacrifice in helping the Jews living here during their years of exile, and today the Rebbe’s shluchim are reaping the harvest.

“During the summer months, a relatively large number of visitors arrive in Kostanay. Many of them come from Eretz Yisroel to visit family members living in the city or because they are Kostanay natives on a sentimental trip to see their former home. Almost all of them include the synagogue as a part of their visit.”

AN AMAZING INTRODUCTION AT FOUR O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING

As a result of many long years of being cut off from the path of their forefathers, the main avoda in the shlichus in Kostanay is “gathering the souls.” Several hundred Jews appear in the community register, and a part of the shlichus work is to reveal these souls assimilated among the Gentiles. “Almost every week, we discover more Jews who didn’t know anything about their Jewish status or its significance,” says Rabbi Zalmanov. “It’s quite evident that the long years of Communist rule have exacted a heavy toll on Jewish identity. In contrast, there are those who consider themselves as Jewish when in fact, they are total Gentiles according to halacha. Among the third generation, the situation is even more complex due to the intense assimilation.

“As soon as we arrived in the city, I realized that this matter will keep me quite busy. As in all other cities throughout the former Soviet Union, intermarriage has taken countless casualties among the Jewish People. This reality narrowed the initial activities I conducted with local youngsters, as at least half of those who came were not halachically Jewish. Instead, I began to invest considerable effort into ‘one-on-one’ activities with those young people whom I absolutely knew were Jewish.”

According to Rabbi Zalmanov, there are also stories that convey a message of positive influence. “There was one young man who had a strong desire to learn about the heritage of his forefathers and he even wanted to emigrate to Eretz Yisroel. He asked to know more and more about Jewish tradition and the Jewish homeland. When he started coming to daven in the shul and help organize our farbrengens, I knew that he had tremendous potential for getting closer to Yiddishkait. When he decided to make aliya, I connected him with one of the shluchim there.

“From my personal experience, I knew that if he wasn’t involved with Chabad in Eretz Yisroel, the kiruv efforts would likely go to waste. Before parting, he promised that he would put on t’fillin every morning. Unfortunately, he didn’t stay in touch with the Chabad shliach nor did he put on t’fillin. Every few days, I would contact him and inquire about the t’fillin, but I always got evasive answers. After a few weeks, he suddenly sent me a picture via WhatsApp with him wearing t’fillin at the Western Wall in Yerushalayim. He even got his friends who had come to the Kosel with him to put on t’fillin for the first time in their lives. The Chabad chassidim there were deeply moved and began doing a traditional bar-mitzvah dance with them. This was something quite unique: Here were a number of young Jews, who might never have shed their ‘karkafta’ label, were it not for one of them from Moldova, proving most fittingly the great influence of the m’shaleiach. Since then, the connection with him has grown much stronger.”

One of the great challenges confronted by the shluchim is locating those Jews not registered in the community records and who do not come to the synagogue or to Chabad House activities.

“Once our whole family returned home to Kostanay via a domestic flight within Kazakhstan. It was four o’clock in the morning and we went outside the airport terminal to try and find a taxi, but there were none to be found at that hour.

“Suddenly, a fancy car came screeching by out of nowhere. The driver stopped near us and offered to take us home. There are two kinds of taxis in Kazakhstan: official ones and unofficial ones operated by common citizens looking to supplement their regular income. We surmised that this man fell into the latter category and we accepted his offer. When I asked him during the journey what the fare was, he said that he wouldn’t hear of it, claiming that it would be a great honor for him to transport such a holy Jew… It turned out that the driver ran a small factory in Kostanay, where he had heard about the Seven Noachide Laws and was most impressed by the work of the Rebbe throughout the world.”

This is one of the reasons why Rabbi Zalmanov makes his activities as prominent as possible, thereby creating a high sense of awareness for as many Jews as he can. “We don’t wait for Jews to come to us; we go searching for them. During this past Sukkos, we placed a mobile sukka in one of the commercial centers and gave Jews the opportunity to make a bracha on the Dalet Minim. In addition, during Chol HaMoed, we erected a sukka in the city of Rudny, where we had been invited in advance by the local Jewish community to make a Sukkos party and let local Jews bless on the lulav and esrog.

“As we were preparing the sukka, I turned to one of the women and inquired as to whether her mother and maternal grandmother were Jewish. She replied most enthusiastically that they were, and I suggested that she should make a bracha on the Dalet Minim. I didn’t realize why she had responded with such excitement, and it was only later that I learned that her mother had passed away just a few days earlier and she had left her all the documents attesting to her Jewishness. Now, here we were, meeting in a sukka. Her excitement was quite understandable…

“Naturally, I checked the documents thoroughly, and once it became clear that she was definitely Jewish, we frequently invited her to our home. Thus, we established a connection with yet another Jewish family.”

Rabbi Zalmanov has a longstanding custom: Whenever a new worker comes to the local synagogue to do renovations or repairs, he talks with him about the Seven Noachide Laws. “Just last week, one such worker came in and we had a discussion on the subject. When I finished, he said to me quite innocently: ‘You should know, Rabbi, that I also have a little connection to Judaism. My grandmother on my mother’s side is Jewish.’ ‘If that’s so,’ I told him, ‘not only do you have a connection to Judaism, you’re Jewish yourself.’ Naturally, I began to speak with him about his Jewish identity and invited him to participate in Chabad programs.

“A similar story happened at the conclusion of our Sukkos activities. One day, two workers were trying to unload some merchandise in front of the shul. They looked like Gentiles, and I was a little frightened when one of them kept giving me long and penetrating stares. At a certain point, he walked towards me and said hello. He then explained how I had brought back memories of his late mother, who happened to be Jewish. And so another rediscovered Jew was given the opportunity to make a blessing on the Dalet Minim.”

With undisguised Jewish pride, Rabbi Zalmanov doesn’t hesitate to approach people passing in the street or at the local banks – if he has reasonable cause to do so, gently ask them how they are and whether they’re Jewish. In this manner, he says that he has found dozens of Jews. “Like a fisherman looking for fish, l’havdil, we also look for Jews all the time. And if they’re not Jewish, we give them informational brochures on the Seven Noachide Laws.

“During our first days here, I was speaking with a local printer who had done some work for us and I asked him if he was Jewish. He said that he wasn’t, but he immediately added that within his own extended family, only his mother was Jewish. Of course, I convinced him to put on t’fillin in recognition of his newfound status, and we even made a bar mitzvah for him in shul.

“We had a similar story this past Purim, when I went to the offices of a company that rents out amplifier equipment. I needed advice on a certain matter, and they referred me to one of the employees. He patiently replied to all my queries, and when he finished, I asked, as is my usual custom, if he was Jewish. Although he said that he wasn’t, I remained unconvinced, as he didn’t have a very Gentile look to him. When I asked him if he had any Jews in his family, he replied that his maternal grandparents were Jewish. He didn’t understand why I was so excited. ‘You’re a Jew,’ I declared. He was astounded; he had never lived his life as a Jew. We sat together for a lengthy conversation, and we have been in close contact with one another ever since. Of course, he began putting on t’fillin, and each time we meet, he learns more and more about his Jewish identity. This man, as with many others, was apparently not previously registered in the community records.

“On the other hand, there are also many Gentiles recorded as Jews in the community register, some with Jewish roots, others without. This demands that we exercise an extra degree of care and stringency regarding ‘the distinction between Israel and the nations.’”

HE SANCTIFIED G-D’S NAME AT HIS DEATH

Alongside these wandering souls, there are many Jews who know about their Judaism, but they have essentially disassociated themselves from traditional Jewish practice. It seems that Rabbi Zalmanov is the right man in the right place to crack these hard nuts. “In our region, there lives an elderly Jew who was privileged to receive great honor from the local Jewish community, and I later discovered that he was also honored by the Gentiles in the area. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, he was a major contractor who built numerous neighborhoods throughout the city. His crowning achievement is the Kostanay railway, with lines reaching into neighboring countries. However, he also classified himself as an atheist. During our first year after arriving in the city, I mistakenly came to his house before Pesach with matzos; he has the exact same name as the head of the local Jewish community.

“In many cities throughout the former Soviet Union, almost every Jew knows about ‘Yom Kippur.’ In almost every location, there are Jews who come once a year to shul to commemorate the yahrzeit of their loved ones. In Kostanay, however, there are many Jews who have never heard about Yom Kippur nor have they ever seen the inside of a synagogue. This elderly Jewish contractor falls into this category; he didn’t even agree to participate in our community activities. The alienation from his Jewish identity was total and absolute.

“The taxi driver who brought me to his house pressed the intercom and informed the person responding inside the house that the rabbi is waiting at the door. ‘You’ve made a mistake,’ a woman’s voice said in reply. ‘You’re obviously on your way to the head of the Jewish community.’ When I heard this, I realized that we really had made a mistake. However, I still wasn’t ready to give up on this Jew, as Divine Providence had brought me here.

“I explained to the woman on the intercom, who was the man’s daughter, that I didn’t want to stay in the house, just to leave a package of matzos with her father and then immediately be on my way. But the woman stubbornly insisted that I go. ‘My father is an atheist; he never wanted to hear about you and he doesn’t now,’ she declared. Yet, I was determined to stay until I delivered the matzos. When she finally realized that I wouldn’t budge, she let me in just to give her the matzos. Only then did I learn that her father was in the hospital.

“I left the matzos there, and after saying a few lines of Tanya and some T’hillim in his merit, I decided that I would go and visit him the next day. I proceeded to the home of the head of the Jewish community, and he welcomed me most warmly. For some reason, I chose not to tell him about the home visit I had made a short while earlier.

“We sat together for around half an hour and were speaking about the essence of the Pesach holiday when the phone suddenly rang. As he listened to the person on the line, his face looked very sad. He then told me that he had just been informed that the Jewish contractor who had the same name as he had just passed away. I was in shock, and I then told him about the previous home visit and how his daughter told me that he was in the hospital. Amazed by this information, he immediately launched into a series of telephone calls, each one beginning with the words ‘You didn’t hear this from me…’”

“The funeral took place at the central train depot of the Kostanay region. Thousands of people attended the ceremony, including some of the leading figures in the city administration. Naturally, I decided to be there even though I hadn’t been invited. I stood by the bier and recited T’hillim.

“As a result of my presence there, they honored me with a request to offer a prayer before those assembled, as everyone recited after me, word by word. I stood alongside various municipal and provincial leaders who came to pay their last respects to a man who had contributed so much to the city’s development.

“When we arrived at the cemetery, I made it clear to all the non-Jews present that I alone would cover the grave, while I tried as much as possible to make certain that only Jews would place the coffin in the ground. It made a tremendous Kiddush Hashem.

“During the funeral, I met a Jew whom I had heard about from others. He was extremely secular, to the point that everyone told me about him, ‘He’s such an atheist that you have no chance with him.’ He never came to shul nor to any of our community holiday events. After shaking hands and introducing myself, I took the opportunity to invite him to put on t’fillin. It wasn’t easy and required some lengthy convincing on my part, but he eventually agreed to come to the synagogue, where he put on t’fillin for the first time in his life and even accepted a set of shmura matzos for the Pesach holiday.”

If we’re already talking about Chassidic stubbornness that produces desirable results, Rabbi Zalmanov recalls another incident.

“In the days before Yom Kippur, we decided to conduct a wide-ranging home visit campaign, designed to spread information throughout the Jewish community about the unique qualities associated with this most holy day. When we knocked on one door, the head of the household came out, but he refused to let us come in. ‘Come some other time, I’m busy now,’ he said evasively. However, my Chassidic obstinacy kicked in and I continued to ask if he could let us in. After some more discussion, I suggested that he come and meet with me downstairs without my entering the house.

“He came down and the conversation continued. I eventually managed to convince him to put on t’fillin for the first time in his life (he was fifty years old). Despite the intense cold, he put the t’fillin on proudly for all passers-by to see. He also took the opportunity to fulfill the custom of doing Kaparos and received a piece of ‘lekach’ as a blessing for a good and sweet new year. When we parted, he apologized for not letting me into his home. He said that he had an agreement with the non-Jewish woman who r”l lived with him that no Jewish symbol would be brought anywhere into the house. I’m quite certain that Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev would have made a lot out of a story like this…”

ENTERING ONE’S PERSONAL STRONGHOLD

As we mentioned earlier, one of the central aspects to this shlichus is making home visits. Rabbi Zalmanov has numerous stories illustrating the importance of coming to people’s homes, the stronghold of the Jewish family. He invests much effort and thought into these visits.

“As the Jewish holidays approach, particularly in the days before Chanukah, we visit a lot of homes. We choose to go see the families much further away, those whom we know that if we don’t come to them, they won’t light candles. In addition, we visit older Jews who aren’t able to come to our Chanukah programs or to the synagogue.

“Last year, I traveled to the other side of the city, about a thirty-minute drive, to visit a young man who I knew was Jewish. When I came into his house, I noticed a large tree adorned with Christian symbols. I made no mention of it and we spoke about Torah and mitzvos. This was the first time that his family had ever heard about Chanukah. When I sensed that they were being responsive, I took out a menorah and we lit the Chanukah candles together. Since then, our connection to the family has grown even stronger and they have begun to attend Chabad activities in town.”

Sometimes, even “small” reminders can arouse a person’s soul. “During Chanukah, we came to visit an elderly Jew who knew a little something about Jewish tradition. After we lit the menorah, I took out a dreidel and gave it a spin. He saw the dreidel and his eyes filled with tears. He then began to tell me his amazing and sad life story when he was a boy growing up in a Chassidic household. He recalled how he would walk to cheider and learn the Alef-Beis. This dreidel literally aroused his soul.”

Are there activities designed for the younger generation?

“Absolutely. We founded a Tzivos Hashem club for children and also conduct activities for older youngsters. This is no easy task. The kids learn in the local schools with their Gentile friends. All of our activities require a great deal of effort and all those who want to participate can only do so after it has been firmly established that he/she has a Jewish mother.

“Working with the older youth is even harder. They’re used to different kinds of recreation – what does davening in a shul mean to them? Since they like to go to shows and restaurants, our activities with them are mainly seasonal. We make certain to invest a lot of effort into every event, and we’ve already taken many of these young men out of the ‘karkafta’ category. Whenever we manage to connect one of them to the Chabad House, it’s like extracting a diamond from the depths of the earth.

“There’s a young man here with whom we’ve become acquainted. In spite of all my requests and urging, he had always been against taking part in any of our activities. One day, we ran a Jewish identity program with Rabbi Elchanan Cohen, who came specially from Alma Ata for this purpose, and we gave stipends to all the participants. The boy’s mother also came, and I told her about the youth club, asking if she would get her son to join. At his mother’s request, he started coming. He put on t’fillin for the first time in his life and has begun to get closer to us. This past Pesach, he joined us for the Seders, and his entire approach has changed.”

In the countries of the former Soviet Union, assimilation and intermarriage are at very high levels. How do you deal with this in Kostanay?

“Regrettably, we’re talking about a widespread phenomenon here. We primarily focus our efforts on the younger generation of Jews in accordance with halacha. Throughout our shlichus, we have already sent numerous young people to larger communities in the CIS or Eretz Yisroel. There are others whom we connect to larger and faster growing Jewish forums, thereby increasing the likelihood that they’ll marry someone Jewish.

“While the problem of intermarriage is quite serious and most complex to deal with, the Shulchan Aruch remains our ultimate point of origin. There are those who have ‘Jewish roots,’ but this is not enough for us. In addition, there are many others with no legal documentation of their Jewish status, requiring them to go through a lengthy process of ‘halachic conversion.’”

What do you do for the education of your children in such a remote location?

“Our children are still quite young, nevertheless, they are an integral part of our shlichus. For example, this past Purim, I dressed my son as Dovid HaMelech. At the Purim farbrengen, I explained to all the participants about the costume, making a connection to the Rebbe’s father, HaRav Levi Yitzchak, who planted the great spiritual crops during his exile in Kazakhstan that we are now harvesting.

“More than once, I have found the powerful influence to be found specifically within children. When they see my first-born son, Sholom Dovber, reviewing Tanya by heart, they are captivated. Recently, a Kostanay native who now lives in Eretz Yisroel came back to revisit his local roots. He stopped by our house and was dazzled by our son. He took his picture and publicized it on social media to all his friends in Eretz Yisroel while adding his own commentary of amazement.

“Naturally, this is a very complex task, and my wife invests a lot of effort in this matter. There’s a special cheider – ‘Gan Chabad Kostanay,’ where other children periodically join our Tzivos Hashem program. When they see how the young shliach davens with great joy and vitality, they too get caught up in the enthusiasm.”

How do the Rebbe’s instructions to publicize that we are in the final generation of exile and the first generation of Redemption come into expression in Kostanay?

“Here in Kostanay, all matters pertaining to our shlichus are instilled with the announcement of the Redemption. In connection with the recent celebration of Lag B’Omer, I recall that the slogan of last year’s parade was ‘Marching to the Redemption.’ All the signs at the parade resembled road signs with proclamations expressing a longing for the Geula. The children received hats similar to those worn by highway construction workers with the words ‘Marching to the Redemption.’ In another example from last Purim, all participants in our Purim program received a mask with eyeglasses bearing the words ‘Open Your Eyes and See Redemption.’ The idea behind all these gimmicks is to instill people with a fervent anticipation for the imminent revelation of Melech HaMoshiach.

“One of the main challenges in publicizing Moshiach is to convey the feeling that the Redemption can occur at any moment and every good deed can tip the scales. Adults with whom I speak about Moshiach claim that they’re getting older and their time has passed. For my part, I refuse to give up on these people and I tell them: On the contrary! You have a tremendous and unique strength to reveal Moshiach, as you are ready with many mitzvos in hand. There’s no time to waste!…

“In addition, at every event that we organize, we hold raffles for striking pictures of the Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach printed on canvas. People long to receive such a prize and we manage to bring the Rebbe’s picture into many homes. Similarly, we speak about the value of writing to the Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach, and at chassidic events, e.g., Yud Shvat and Yud-Alef Nissan farbrengens, people ask if they can request a bracha from the Rebbe.”

HEAVEN-SENT TRAVEL INSURANCE

Rabbi Zalmanov: “In the weeks leading up to the birth of our second daughter, we wanted to fly to Eretz Yisroel. To our great surprise, we were informed that to board a flight under these circumstances, my wife needed a special authorization from a doctor. We never imagined how difficult a problem this would be, as all the doctors we approached refused to sign such a document, claiming that they weren’t prepared to take the responsibility.

“We decided to go ‘l’chat’chilla aribber,’ so we packed our suitcases and prepared to board a flight without the doctor’s permit. Naturally, we did this after we had written to the Rebbe and received a bracha. A few days before our scheduled flight, we organized a major pre-Rosh Hashanah event for many members of the Jewish community. By Divine Providence, it turned out that one of the participants at this event was a doctor with a private clinic.

“We turned to her and she happily agreed to help us. The very next day, we came to her office and received the necessary permit, and we followed this up with a visit to her private home. Since then, we have been in close contact with her and have been privileged to make good use of her professional medical services.”

THE INTERIOR AND RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS MINISTERS AT THE CHABAD HOUSE

Rabbi Zalmanov has only words of tremendous praise for the head shliach and chief rabbi of Kazakhstan, Rabbi Yeshaya Cohen. “Recently, we encountered a problem with the status of our visa permits to remain in Kazakhstan. Every day that we were here and working on our shlichus was a literal miracle. Every month, we had to travel to Russia and only afterwards were we allowed to re-enter the country. We were forced to spend long hours on the highways in the cold and snow, while we were heavily preoccupied with our shlichus responsibilities. To our great joy and relief, Rabbi Cohen used his connections to bring high-ranking government officials to the Chabad House to arrange the matter for us. When the city’s Jews heard that the interior and religious affairs ministers had visited the Chabad House, this aroused tremendous Jewish pride and honor for our synagogue.”

When we asked Rabbi Zalmanov about his future plans, he immediately responded that his most tangible plan was for the magnificent synagogue in Kostanay to rise on clouds of glory to the Beis HaMikdash. However, until then, he wants to see more and more Jews coming closer to the path of their forefathers, returning to their roots, visiting the synagogue and mikveh more often, participating in assemblies and Torah classes. From his standpoint, his work is part of the destiny in the time of Redemption, “And you shall be gathered, one by one.”

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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