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Noble Figures

Noble Figures

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Chassidic life in Samarkand during the years of my childhood and youth was comprised of a unique combination of extraordinary individuals. There were elder Chassidim who were true role models, embodying an intense, burning desire for their creator, alongside young, idealistic bochurim who possessed a tremendous Chassidic fervor of their own. I relish many sweet memories from the privileged time I spent together with the elder Chassidim.

My first memory of R. Eliyahu is from an event that, at the time, left a distinctly unpleasant flavor in my mouth, and even resentment toward him. It took some maturity on my part until I fully grasped the significance and implications of what had occurred.
Occasionally, on Shabbos afternoon - once it had become dark outside, and inside the shul it was dim as well - we youngsters would muster the courage to sneak inside, being ever so careful not to be spotted...
It was recently discovered that they had a sister whom we had never heard about.
Though the nuances may vary, the essence of the stories remains the same.
My uncle and aunt were not blessed with children of their own and since I, their nephew, was the youngest child in my family, I had a special place in their hearts.
Although it was several years after Stalin’s death, there was still a prevailing mood of fear.
During the flurry of arrests in Samarkand, he was arrested as a Lubavitcher Chassid and sentenced to 25 years in exile. It was only after Stalin’s death that he was pardoned and released.
In the late 1950s, a man by the name of Yisrael Nachman Zeidman arrived in Samarkand. He had sunken eyes and frightened expression that seemed to bear testimony to a deep pain and a fear that lay in his heart.
When R. Yaakov’s children grew older and he had to provide them with a proper Jewish education, he decided to move to Samarkand.
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