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Baruch Israelnaya

Baruch Israelnaya


It's early and cold as I step onto the black school bus. Yes, school buses with noisy kids tend to shine lemon yellow, but a school bus with a coffin in it turns instantly black.

Yossi, Yefim, and myself sit on one side, two old women sit on the other. The shorter woman repeatedly touches her eyes with a wet handkerchief. I figure it's her husband on the floor between us in the box. And no, we're not going to school.

Thankfully it's a school bus and not a hearse. This way, we're not riding with a dead man; he's getting a ride with us.

Many Russians cremate their dead because it's simpler and cheaper. But to the Jew, cremation is the saddest thing, there's nothing you can do. Eternity has already happened.

Rabbi Moskowitz says, "In the former Soviet Union it's hard to live as a Jew and even harder to die as a Jew." Today, a traditional burial is almost reason for celebration.

Baruch Israelnaya's family cannot afford to bury him in the Jewish way. Rabbi Moskowitz does Baruch a true kindness. I notice that about once a week Baruch shows up with a different name and face, and Rabbi Moskowitz does the same favor each time.

That winter morning is the first time I am asked to help, and I remember sitting on the bus trying to focus on what has to be done, not on what I am doing.

Fresh snow covers most of the graves, thinking I'm too young to know. Yossi and Yefim carry the wooden box to a small, gated area marked with a Star of David. There, Rabbi Moskowitz, and a few others wait silently in front of open earth.

On the other side of the pit four Russians dressed like railroad or construction workers look me up and down. I try not to look back. Gravediggers have no family or friends, and don't mistake them for one of us.

Rabbi Moskowitz says a prayer about being tied in the bond of life. Kaddish is said for the first time. The handkerchief is still wet, and I've become a gravedigger. And death has become eternal life.

From Chicken Kiev, by Shmuel Marcus (to purchase the book click here)
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Edwin Axton Everett WA. July 3, 2017

That's my story too almost verbatim except that I have returned to a Chabad Synagogue permanently. I'll admit it, I'm a "Chabnik"! Reply

Edwin Axton Everett, WA... June 28, 2012

Chabniks I love 'em, they opened thier arms to me when I embraced Judaism upon learning of my great grandparents being Jews, that's more than i can say for the snooty Orthodox Rabbis I interviewed before I committed to conversion! I ultimately became a member of a Seattle based "Modern Orthodox" Shul and have never looked back. They were loving and readily accepted me for who I am and my ancestry. Unfortunately the Chabad House I previously was a part of closed hence my joining my present synagogue. Reply

Orah Delray, FL July 1, 2017
in response to Edwin Axton:

Welcome home! I come from a line of Eastern European and Middle Eastern Jews...then not Jews again (at least my side of the family). Stay strong in your faith : ) Reply

Anonymous Tohoku region, Japan June 27, 2012

The kindness of Chabad Yes I saw how the people from Chabad helped out the victims of the Tsunami in Japan, so their kindness extends to the non Jews as well as the Jews. They practice what they preach, deed is the thing that counts.
I was very touched to see the Youtube footage just by coincidence. Thank you for helping my people. Reply

Sandy Davie, Florida June 29, 2011

Yes! I am 100% in agreement, from Pesach to Rosh HaShanah...Chabad is loving, kind, helpful, filled with warmth and love for all who are in need....I have attended Shabbat services, holiday programs, as well as helped with children's events even though I am not a paying member. And the depth of freely shared knowledge about Judaism and Torah cannot be found anywhere else. Reply

Edwin Axton Stanwood, WA... August 20, 2010

Chabad I had no idea about the benevolence of Chabad until I became involved w/Chabad. I too had heard negative remarks about them from other ill informed Jews and hence I formed a negative opinion w/o facts to my chagrin. I have since learned the truth and have become active w/Chabad and have not looked back. There is more love shown by Chabad than any other Jewish sect I've encountered. They're truly G-d's emmisaries! Reply

G.M.S. London, England August 26, 2009

Chabad Kindness I totally agree with the comments already posted. It angers me when people criticise Chabad ... yet when they travel the world they do so in the secure knowledge that Chabad will enable them to have kosher food. From Venice to the Rain Forest, from Istanbul to India, my family have been accommodated with kosher meals. They will assist with a brit as a baby enters the world - and help bury the dead when they depart. They are always there for you, whatever the conditions - and with a smile. I may not be a Lubavitcher, but I recognise that this is truly the legacy of the Rebbe. Reply

Anonymous RPB, FLA September 10, 2008

The kindness of Chabad I agree with Judy, 100%....Chabadnicks are some of the kindest people I know...springing into action anonymously at every opportunity presented..You can always count on them to be there and be helpful. Reply

Judy Resnick Far Rockaway, NY August 25, 2008

The Greatest Kindness Whenever stupid people make stupid comments about Chabad, I reply with some version of this story: how Chabad for free arranges funerals for poor Russian Jews who otherwise could not afford Kever Yisroel. Then I zing them with how in November 2005 volunteers from Chabad of Boca Raton, Florida walked up eleven flights of stairs to bring ice, food, water and medicine to elderly Jews stranded without power by Hurricane Wilma at the top of hi-rise apartment buildings. Chabad does so much unpublicized, unadvertised kindness for so many people. Practical Judaism 101: first help out a fellow Jew in need, then learn a chapter of Tanya. Reply