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Wednesday
Jul102019

Moishe & Moishe in a Leningrad Apartment

Rabbi Moshe Klein fromHasoferfirst met Rabbi Moshe Asman from Kiev 31 years ago in Soviet Leningrad on a secret mission for strengthening Yiddishkeit.

Thirty-one years since Rabbi Moshe Klein of New York, a well-known figure in Crown Heights, and Rabbi Moshe Asman, chief rabbi of the Ukraine, met under unusual circumstances.

“Since then, I was in Crown Heights many times, but did not feel comfortable disturbing and calling you,” apologized R’ Asman to R’ Klein.

The first meeting between the two of them occurred in Adar 5747 in Leningrad in the days before perestroika. The KGB’s presence was still everywhere although there was some easing off relative to past history. R’ Klein was sent from New York to Russia by the Ezras Achim organization, to help the Jews of Moscow and Leningrad in various ways. R’ Asman was then a young man and a dynamic activist in the service of Torah. “He would walk in the street with his tzitzis out,” says R’ Klein, still amazed as he recounts this.

On that two-week visit, they met. Under the watchful eyes of the KGB they worked together on a number of issues that affected daily life for Jews in Leningrad.

Their most recent encounter took place in Eretz Yisrael. R’ Klein was in Eretz Yisrael for a family simcha and was staying with his sister and brother-in-law in Yerushalayim. At a certain point, he took an old album out of the closet. It contains hundreds of pictures of that visit which the two will tell us about. “I don’t know why, but at the time, thirty-one years ago, I made copies of the pictures and sent them to my sister in Yerushalayim. Now we have yet another cause for excitement.”

If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine what an album of pictures from those days of hardship and suffering are worth!

The two of them eagerly set to the album and look at picture after picture. They recall people, mention names, and tell stories and anecdotes that bring them back thirty-one years to a completely different era. Time passed and I tried to talk to them but the two were not done yet. Another name comes up of a heroic figure of the Chabad underground that worked under the leadership of the Rebbe and under the inspiration of the mesirus nefesh of the Baal Ha’Geula, the Rebbe Rayatz, who established the “mesirus nefesh underground” in communist Russia.

The excitement rose a notch when R’ Klein took out his cell phone and played a stirring Niggun sung by R’ Mottel Lifshitz, one of the iconic characters of the Chassidic underground in Moscow. R’ Mottel sang the niggun during a secret farbrengen that took place in honor of a siyum of the study of shechita and the ordination of shochtim. “Az der Aibishter vet gebben…” “When Hashem will give us health and life, we will meet with our Rebbe, oy, Rebbenyu … Rebbenyu …”

“Your know,” added R’ Klein, after the three of us hear the emotional niggun again and again, “This recording made its way to Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka and I heard from the aides in her house that the tears flowed from her eyes as she listened. Furthermore, that year, Lag B’Omer was on a Sunday, and at the parade there was a tank dedicated to the Jews of Russia. The organizers wanted to play the niggun on this “Russian tank,” but the Rebbe issued a sharp response: From where does this idea come from to publicize this in the street when it could endanger these people?

This interview was definitely one of the high points of my work as an interviewer. Every moment was a fascinating experience; every story of special value.

SHLICHUS INTO THE LION’S DEN

It was shortly before the advent of perestroika in the Soviet Union. The communists still ruled. Russian Jewry battled to preserve Judaism. The persecution was not as intense as it was during the accursed Stalin’s reign, but the fear was still tangible.

It was not long after Rabbi Yitzchok Kogan had left Russia for Eretz Yisrael. He left hundreds of Jews behind, many of whom were activists that were left without a guiding hand, who tried to as much as they could to keep the flame of Judaism alight.  It wasn’t easy. At the head of the group, both in Moscow and in Leningrad, there were the elders: R’ Mottel Lifschitz, R’ Getshe Vilensky, R’ Avrohom Genin and other people of mesirus nefesh. Under them, worked dozens of dynamic young people who did all they could to further Jewish life.

Lishkas Ezras Achim in New York helped them by sending shipments of Jewish ritual items as well as material assistance for their continued survival. Every so often, Chassidim were sent to Russia in the guise of tourists or businessmen. They took along aid packages and had instructions to carry out. Everything was done in absolute secrecy.

One day, R’ Klein, a mohel, sofer, shochet and paramedic of Crown Heights was called by the directors of Ezras Achim. Since he had expertise in these fields, which was precisely what the Jews of Russia needed, he was asked to travel along with Rabbi Sholom Rivkin, the rav of S. Louis, to Russia to visit the Jewish community.

“The Jewish communities in Moscow and Leningrad needed urgent help,” recalls R’ Klein. “In those days, seven young men had finished learning hilchos stam and needed to be tested to receive ‘kabbala’ (ordination to write stam). There was also a group of young men who finished learning the laws of shechita which R’ Kogan had started with them before he left. They also needed to be tested and receive kabbala (ordination to serve as a shochet). They could not be left that way, especially when the communities urgently needed sofrim and shochtim. Also, an expert sofer was needed to write gittin.

“This is why R’ Rivkin of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, a great authority in gittin, and myself were chosen to travel to Russia and deal with all this.”

How do you prepare for a trip like that?

“First, we sat down with people who had gone before us and they told us how things work. They guided us in how to enter Russia, how to travel, and with whom we could meet and how. Everything required great care. I remember the following line: Whatever you do, the worst that will happen is that they will take you to the airport and throw you right out, but if any Russians are caught with you it is a pity on them; their lives will be in danger.

“Of course, we first had to receive the Rebbe’s consent and blessing. R’ Rivkin and I received $18 each to redeem legally in Russia. Likewise, on the Shabbos before the trip, I went up to the Rebbe at the farbrengen to get a bottle of mashke for the trip. The custom was that whoever received a bottle of mashke at a farbrengen announced what the mashke was for.

“When I went up to get mashke from the Rebbe, R’ Groner told the Rebbe that we were going to Russia and the Rebbe said ‘L’chaim v’livracha, it should be with great, outstanding success’ and added, ‘Don’t announce it,’ i.e. it needs to be kept secret.”

R’ Rivkin and R’ Klein took a direct flight from New York to Moscow. They knew that they were about to face a serious impediment in the form of the customs agents at the airport who were likely to search all their belongings.

“DID YOU SEE MY GRANDFATHER?”

What happened in the airport?

“When we arrived, each of us was taken aside by a different customs officer. They opened the suitcases and removed everything. The officer took out a package of fifty pictures of the Rebbe that I brought along. He asked me why I brought so many pictures and I said he is my grandfather and I want to give his picture to all my relatives.

“Then he asked me about the four pairs of tefillin that I brought to leave in Russia. He knew that we put on two pairs and asked, why four? I said that the more important Jews put on four pairs of tefillin … I had mila knives with me and they asked me what they were for. I said that I keep kosher and these are knives for dairy and meat.

“I brought along architectural plans for mikvaos to help build mikvaos. The suspicious customs officer asked me what it was, what I planned on building. Since I was coming in with an architect’s visa, I said that although I came to Russia to relax and tour, there were some plans that I had to work on too, before I returned home.

“When you stand in a place like that, it’s frightening. They checked and examined every item we brought and asked questions. I heard about emissaries that went and were suspected. They were taken directly to the other side of the airport and after confiscating everything, they put them on the first plane back to where they came from.

“Another unpleasant incident we experienced there was when they found a lot of suspicious material in R’ Rivkin’s suitcase. It turned out that the person who arranged the suitcases in New York had erred in judgment and had divided the items incorrectly. For example, we had two expensive cameras that we brought to give to young Jews so they could sell them on the black market and live off the proceeds.”

R’ Asman: “I remember that. Each camera could have supported three families for half a year!”

R’ Klein: “Aside from that, there were also shechita knives, mila knives, pictures, sefarim, etc. Most of these things were put into R’ Rivkin’s suitcase instead of dividing them equally between the two suitcases. ‘Why do you need two cameras?’ ‘Why do you need two knives?’

“I went over to them and said, ‘You are starting up with the rabbi of S. Louis, the seventh largest city in the United States. You should know that if you make him problems, it will generate an international brouhaha.’ They were taken aback and allowed us to move on.”

R’ Rivkin and R’ Klein first went to Moscow. They put their belongings down in a local hotel that was under surveillance and then they went to the big Archipova shul to daven.

“I went into the shul the morning of the second day. A moment before I wrapped my tallis, a bearded Jew walked toward me. He made an innocent round of the shul and mumbled, ‘Did you see my zeide?’ I immediately understood that he meant the Rebbe and said, ‘Two days ago on Shabbos we were at the zeide’s farbrengen.’

“It was the famous Chassid R’ Getshe Vilensky. He continued walking around and around and when he reached where I was standing yet again, he asked in a mumble, ‘Did you bring something printed from the farbrengen?’ That demonstrated the great thirst that Anash had for anything from the Rebbe,” said R’ Klein.

“There was tremendous fear, including fear of those who davened in the shul because the place swarmed with informers. After the davening, he walked around me again and said in passing that we would meet afterward in a side hall. It was only then that he welcomed us with hugs and kisses.”

CONSTANT FEAR

R’ Asman: “In Moscow, the community was bigger but in Leningrad, the community was more unique.”

In what way was it more unique?

“R’ Yitzchok Kogan solidified the community in an extraordinary way. There was a special atmosphere.”

R’ Asman, then a bachur of 20, remembers the arrival of the emissaries from America. “We looked at the emissaries from the Rebbe like …” R’ Asman tried to find the words. He finally said, “With real admiration. When we met a shliach of the Rebbe, to us he represented the Rebbe with all the depth that this signifies.”

This was right before perestroika which began a few months later.

“Right. I remember that R’ Kogan called us from the United States (where he had gone on a visit) and told us that the Rebbe said that the Soviet authorities were about to change their policies and not to fight them. He instructed us, in the Rebbe’s name, not to be involved in politics, that soon there would be miracles without bloodshed. That was a very exciting message for us.

“Indeed, we were not involved in politics and just continued with our Jewish activities despite their illegality. More than once, I was called to the KGB offices for interrogation.”

Was it still dangerous?

“It wasn’t as frightening as during Stalin’s time but it was definitely dangerous. R’ Klein himself just told you how R’ Getshe, who was a brave Jew, made contact by going round and round. It wasn’t a simple matter …”

Can you tell us about a time that you were interrogated?

“In Russia, it was prohibited not to have a profession. At that time, I was studying in a dental technician school. One day, two KGB agents came to the college and called me in for a talk. In general, every time they would take out their official documents and present themselves as KGB agents, it engendered great fear. Of course, they took advantage of the person’s weakness and extracted whatever they wanted.

“I was an active member of the community and knew that one day I would be called for an interrogation. I regularly reviewed what I would say so I wouldn’t be afraid and if they would ask me questions, I would tell them, ‘Kill me but I’m not telling you anything.’ I fortified my determination ahead of time.

“Then they came and I have to say they were professionals and operated very cleverly. They did not try to intimidate me; on the contrary, they spoke nicely and removed any reason for me to fight or be resistant. One talked to me and asked questions while the other one sat for a few hours and looked at me without moving his head. I will say that the silence of the other man was more frightening.

“We had a very interesting conversation about many topics regarding the community. At a certain point, they wanted me to write the names of people and places. I did not agree to this. I said I have a bad memory and don’t remember a thing.

“As for your question, yes, there was fear. The young ones feared less but the older ones, who remembered the days of terror, were definitely frightened and were not willing to teach us. The only ones who were willing were R’ Refael Nimotin and a few others.”

How did you have the courage to behave like that?

R’ Asman shrugged and said, “We did not consider it self-sacrifice. It was simply that we had to carry ourselves with pride.”

R’ Klein: “I remember that young people complained to us that the elders were not learning with them. At a farbrengen that I attended (see picture), I said that whoever learns on his own and does not teach others, what’s that worth? I urged them to teach the young generation.

“At the end of that farbrengen, it took three hours for people to leave. They did not dare to leave all at once and they left one by one, with significant time lapses between them, so nobody would associate one with another. They honored us, the shluchim, to leave first, so we wouldn’t be delayed. There was real fear.

“When R’ Asman speaks about fear, we experienced that during our visit. When we returned to our hotel each evening, all our belongings and contents of our suitcases were turned over on the bed or floor. We would straighten up and the next day, the same thing happened. They turned everything over in order to find something incriminating. The room had microphones that they did not try to hide.

“I’ll give you another example of the fear. During our last night in Moscow, we sat in R’ Grisha Rosenstein’s house all night, until five in the morning. He had paper that you write on and then the minute you pick it up, the writing is erased. Since the house was covered with microphones, we couldn’t talk freely. There were some important subjects we needed to discuss and we wrote it down. He read it, remembered it with his photographic mind, and then erased it and we went on to the next topic.

“I remember that when we arranged the first get in his home, we saw someone standing in the building across from us, photographing us.

“There was another incident in which we arranged some brissin. The brissin took place in the home of an old Jewish woman who lived on the ninth floor of a building. She always said she did not care about herself; she was willing to give her house for brissin.

“At a certain point, we heard noise from the street. When she looked down, she was frightened. A row of black executive cars were parked in a row under the building. She clapped her hands in fright and said, ‘Ribono shel olam, they came to grab us. I don’t care about myself; they just shouldn’t arrest the rabbis.’ In the end, the cars drove away after a few minutes.”

You didn’t have a government “escort” throughout your trip?

“There was one, but we did our best to shake it. I remember that when we traveled to where the brissin would be, on the way we saw a car following us. We told the driver, ‘Take the money and stop here.’ He stopped and we got out and the car behind us had to continue driving.

“I remember that on our first Shabbos in Moscow, R’ Rivkin was given maftir. He was a brokenhearted man who had many troubles. He cried a lot and the maftir took about half an hour. It seemed to me that all of his pent up emotion just erupted from him due to the tension that we experienced during the first week of our visit.”

SPECIAL VISIT TO THE HOUSE OF THE BAAL HA’GEULA

When the two emissaries finished their visit to Moscow, they prepared for their trip to Leningrad. They purchased the tickets well in advance.  The trip itself took just one hour but the whole process took twelve hours. “Five hours of waiting for the flight, an hour for the flight, and another four hours on the plane for no apparent reason,” recalls R’ Klein.

“By divine providence, before I left the house in New York, I decided to take something along to read. The suitcases were already in the car and I grabbed something from the bookcase, stuffed it in my bag and left. As I sat on the plane in Leningrad for so many hours, I took out what I had put in my bag and saw that I had taken the maamar ‘Ha’Gomel l’Chayavim Tovos,’ which the Rebbe Rayatz said on Shabbos, parashas Pinchas 5687, a few days after his release. I thought that since I was traveling to Leningrad, there was nothing more appropriate than to learn this maamar by heart.

“In fact, I did learn it by heart, which I was able to give expression to during the special visit I made to the apartment of the Rebbe Rayatz.”

One of the most uplifting moments of the trip, according to R’ Klein, was the visit to the place of residence of the Rebbe Rayatz at the time of the arrest and liberation, Machavaya 22. Nowadays, when many Chassidim have already visited it, it’s nothing new, but back then, it was a rare and moving experience.

R’ Klein said to R’ Asman, “Do you remember that visit?”

“Of course.”

R’ Klein: “Purim fell out on a Sunday that year and we had no plans for the previous Friday. I decided to go to the home of the Rebbe Rayatz during the arrest and liberation and see it for myself. I didn’t believe I would be able to go in; just see it from the outside.

“I didn’t know how to get there and since I saw R’ Moshe Asman, a young, dynamic bachur with his tzitzis out for all to see, fearless, I thought he would be the right one. I remember asking you,” R’ Klein said turning to R’ Asman, “why you weren’t afraid to have a beard and visible tzitzis. You told me proudly, ‘I am a Chassid and I am not afraid of anyone.’ Then I asked you whether you would take me to the Rebbe Rayatz’s house and you told me, ‘Fine, I will take you.’ And you took me there, unhesitatingly.”

R’ Klein laughed freely at the awkward embarrassment of R’ Asman, and the two proceeded to relive the trip to the home of the Baal Ha’Geula.

R’ Asman: “On our way there in the taxi, we passed by the KGB building called Bolshoy Dom. It’s a big building with hundreds of KGB offices. Near it was the fearsome Shpalerka building where the Rebbe was incarcerated. People were always afraid to walk past, and for good reason.”

The taxi then proceeded to the home of the Rebbe.

R’ Klein: “At first, we stood down below. I wanted to see the window from where Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka had called out that night to her chassan, ‘Guests came to us,’ thus warning him about the Yevsektzia who were conducting a search of the house. From there, the Rebbe ran to the secretary’s house to tell him about the arrest.

“Then, we decided to try and go inside. R’ Moshe Asman with his young and adventurous spirit decided to try his luck. He knocked on the door and said firmly, ‘My grandfather used to live here. We want to come in and see the house. We won’t touch or take anything; just come inside.’ His authoritative tone frightened the old woman in the doorway and without a word, she moved aside and let us enter.”

R’ Asman (chuckling): “I remember her, how she opened the door for us.”

R’ Klein: “There was still a mark on the doorpost of the mezuza that had been there. We entered a large living room where the Rebbe Rayatz would say maamarim and farbreng. I was very moved. I stood in the center of the room and began reviewing the maamar that I had taken along with me, which the Rebbe had said on Shabbos parashas Pinchas 5687, after returning from exile in Kostroma, right there, in that place, where he also recited the ha’gomel blessing.

“Since it was a long Friday, we also went to the Petropavlovsk fortress where the Alter Rebbe had been imprisoned. Since we did not know which cell he had been in, we went through all the cells and in each cell we reviewed a chapter from Tanya by heart. (In later years, it was learned that the building in which the Alter Rebbe had been imprisoned had been demolished and this building was constructed in its place, but back then, it was assumed that this was the building in which he had been imprisoned).

“When I returned to New York, I wrote a detailed report to the Rebbe about the entire trip and included photos. I mentioned these facts. The Rebbe responded ‘teshuos chein’ (expression of thanks) regarding all the paragraphs and about these two paragraphs, the Rebbe responded, ‘teshuos chein, teshuos chein al she’goram nachas ruach’ (double thanks for providing nachas).

“By the way, I heard later that the Rebbe gave the photo album that I brought him to the Rebbetzin. When she saw a picture of the mikva in Leningrad, she shuddered over the decrepitude of the place.”

WOMAN’S MAKEUP FOR CHICKENS

As mentioned, this was after R’ Kogan left Russia for Eretz Yisrael. Before he left, he began training a new generation of shochtim. He taught them the laws of shechita and even produced a textbook for them to study from.

R’ Klein: “Part of our mission was to test them and see whether they knew how to properly sharpen and check the sharpness of a knife and shecht properly. Till today, I have the answers from the bachurim on hilchos shechita. They wrote with many spelling mistakes because of difficulties with the language, but all their answers were amazingly accurate. They did not know Hebrew but knew the Beis Dovid and Simla Chadasha on hilchos shechita by heart! R’ Kogan transmitted the knowledge in an outstanding fashion.

“By the way, we needed many chickens so that the bachurim could train with them and show us what they knew. Where could we possibly get chickens from when they were almost impossible to obtain? Indeed, when we went to Russia, we brought along many cartons of cigarettes as well as rouge compacts for women. When I went through customs, the officer expressed his surprise as to why I had brought rouge with me and I said that my wife would be coming the following week and she needed them.

“The scarcity in Russia was so great that in exchange for a pack of cigarettes, we got a live chicken and in exchange for rouge we got two …”

R’ Asman: “Do you remember the last question you asked us?”

“Sure,” said R’ Klein, as both of them were clearly reliving the events. “We asked you about a kashrus doubt that comes up at each of the stages of the shechita, what do you do about it? You answered that R’ Kogan taught you that whenever there was a question, to be stringent, i.e. you throw the chicken out. I remember that R’ Rivkin and I heard that and were moved to tears. Do you know what it meant to throw out a chicken in Russia of those days? This answer convinced R’ Rivkin to immediately give them kabbala.”

R’ Asman, I think you are nostalgic for those days …

R’ Asman: “I’ll tell you something. To a certain extent, that period was easier than it is today. Then, it was a time of mesirus nefesh, and mesirus nefesh strengthens you and uplifts you. Today, in ordinary times, it is harder to maintain yourself on that level.

“I’ll give you an example. Today, you go to buy an esrog and there are hundreds to choose from: with a pitim or without; this color or that color; bumpy or not bumpy; it’s all available. Back then, we had one esrog in the entire city. Everyone came to say the bracha over it with tremendous excitement, and they knew to appreciate the opportunity in a way that most people can’t imagine.

***

The shluchim experienced two intense weeks in Russia.

“Those weeks were extremely busy,” says R’ Klein. “Every night we attended a different surreptitious event where we spoke and encouraged people. By day, we arranged brissin, taught a doctor how to circumcise, gave semicha to sofrim and shochtim, and arranged twelve gittin! R’ Asman signed one of them.

“Before I left Russia, I hid notes under the lining of my hat with the names of Anash who wanted brachos from the Rebbe. I prayed that these notes would not be found.

“One of the notes was sent by Chaim Piltzer who asked the Rebbe for his consent to a shidduch. He received the answer, ‘The shidduch is a proper one; in a good and auspicious time.’ There was also a note from the shochet R’ Mottel Lifshitz who asked the Rebbe for permission to visit him for Tishrei. For many years, the Rebbe did not allow him to leave since he had no replacement. In the note that he sent with me, he wrote that now, he would get a replacement, R’ Moshe Tamrin. The Rebbe responded, ‘Yes, you should do so; I will mention it at the tziyun.’ (He did, in fact, go to the Rebbe and was privileged to signs of closeness from him).”

What was a very special moment during this trip?

R’ Asman: “Sorry for answering instead of him but I think that one of the things that surprised the shluchim [R’ Rivkin and R’ Klein] was that they saw things that previously they had only heard about in stories, i.e. lives of mesirus nefesh. When you are told something, you hear it but don’t live it. When they came, they themselves experienced a life of mesirus nefesh.”

R’ Klein: “Definitely. I will add … You come thinking you are going to give to the Jews of Russia and suddenly, you find yourself receiving; you come to teach and you learn. It moves me to tears to think about seven sofrim who finished learning how to write stam and now can start writing, or to think of a Jewish doctor who finished learning the laws of mila and can help with a bris for an adult.”

Still, do you have a moving moment to tell us about?

R’ Klein: “I’ll tell you about two such moments. After we arrived, we had the first meeting in the home of Grisha Rosenstein. He brought a Jewish doctor and I was supposed to teach him how to do a bris mila on adults. We all discussed the matter at length and it turned out that many people had circumcisions that were not done according to halacha, whether by a gentile doctor or it was done at night, etc. These people had to undergo hatafas dam bris (small amount of bloodletting from the site of the bris).

“Afterward, we returned to the hotel for the night. Grisha, via their secret means and using their code, conveyed the information to the others. When I arrived the next day at his house at ten in the morning, I saw seventeen men standing and waiting. I asked them what they were waiting for and they said they had not undergone a halachic bris and they wanted hatafas dam bris.

“Another incident was at the farbrengen that we attended in Moscow. R’ Kleinberg got up at the end of the farbrengen and emotionally said to me, ‘Moshe, do a mitzva. I want to be connected with the Rebbe but I don’t see how. Perhaps I can at least wear an article of clothing like the Rebbe wears on Shabbos.’ That moved me so much that I got up and gave him my sirtuk. He was so moved that he cried.”

R’ Asman: “The question is asked, why do we mention Mitzrayim every day. One of the reasons is that so we do not forget that we were slaves in Mitzrayim. Many things depend on that; Hashem wants us to remember what happened and from where we came and to where we have arrived.”

GOING WITH THE POWER OF THE REBBE

R’ Moshe Klein relates:

In Leningrad, there was an old Chassid by the name of R’ Abba Ezdrin. His daughter was married to a man who abandoned her, left the path of Torah and mitzvos and refused to give her a get. Her father did all he could to convince him but was always refused. He even sent him messengers who came from the Rebbe to convince him but he refused. At a certain point, he even threatened, “If additional messengers come to me, I will hand them over to the KGB.” The situation was so sensitive that his threat had some basis. All that was needed was one accusation for the emissaries from the Rebbe to be expelled from Russia; that would be in the best case scenario.

When we went to Russia, R’ Abba poured out his heart to us about his daughter and pleaded with us to help. “Maybe you can do something; you are shluchim of the Rebbe,” he cried.

It was heartrending but it was dangerous to help him. I said: If you sent so many messengers to him and it didn’t help, who says we can help, especially as we have other missions here and we are afraid of being expelled or even being put in jail. But R’ Rivkin did not agree with me and he said, “We are here with the power of the Rebbe. Go and convince him with the Rebbe’s koach.”

R’ Asman, who was a bachur at the time, did not hesitate; he took me to his place of work in Gastronom (a sort of big grocery). The recalcitrant husband worked as a manager in the meat department. I said the name of the man I was looking for and they showed me where he was. I began talking to him but he answered me in Russian. I said to him, “Yiddish? Hebrew?” and he began speaking to me in Hebrew.

He was a tough fellow. He immediately asked me, “You came here for a get? I won’t give her a get and if you don’t get out of here, I will inform on you.”

I held the $18 I received from the Rebbe and said to him firmly and unequivocally (like I learned from R’ Asman when we went up to the Rebbe Rayatz’s apartment), “I did not come here with my own power but with the power of the Rebbe. You have no choice but to give a get and you are not leaving here without giving a get.”

His expression changed; he was frightened. He went to his manager and asked permission to leave for a while and went along with us. We took him to one of the apartments where I wrote a get with R’ Rivkin standing over me and two kosher witnesses. On the spot, we were designated as emissaries to give the get to his wife who was finally released from the marriage.

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