In addition to the hidden yeshivah for Lubavitcher students described in the previous chapter, other classes were later opened for the local Bucharian children of the community, under the auspices of Chamah. These classes were very different from those of the yeshivah, and were geared for children who knew little, if anything, about Judaism.

After immigration to Israel picked up in the 1970s, many of these students came to form the nucleus of the Bucharian community in Kfar Chabad. Some of them continued their studies in the Chabad yeshivas in Lod and Rishon Le’tzion. Eventually they would establish hundreds of Chassidic homes, and many of them serve today as emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe across the globe.

These classes began with the children and grandchildren of the Bucharian students who had been sent many years earlier by R. Simcha Gorodetsky to study in Tomchei Temimim, ultimately joining the ranks of Chabad themselves. Slowly but surely, the number of students increased, and, in time, they came to number well into the hundreds.

Being that we did not have sufficient manpower to teach the ever-increasing number of students ourselves, we selected the brightest boys of the group instead; boys who were mature and able to keep a secret, and taught them ourselves. They, in turn, relayed the knowledge they had acquired to the younger students.

R. Yosef Ladayev was in charge of arranging the classes and pairing the students with appropriate teachers. He lived in the Old City and knew the Bucharian boys and was thus suitable for this task.

Since the majority of these children learned in public schools, the underground learning took place in the early morning hours, or in the evening. At 6:00 a.m., the teacher would arrive at a given house and teach the children the Hebrew alphabet and selections from Chumash. Sometimes the learning would take place in the home of one of the children without his parents’ knowledge. As the oblivious parents slept in their bedroom, their son would open the door for his teacher and friends and they would learn in the next room.

Whenever I recall how these righteous young children, these little tzaddikim, would arise early in the morning to study Torah, I am overcome with amazement. Although young children typically try to avoid learning, these boys, only nine, ten, and eleven years of age—on their own initiative—arose at the crack of dawn and studied Torah energetically, even though their parents were not forcing them to study, or were perhaps unaware of the studies altogether. What a wondrous phenomenon it was!

I will never forget our excitement upon hearing the following episode, related to us by R. Yosef Ladayev:

Early one morning, one of the young boys unwittingly woke up earlier than usual. Unaware of the time, he walked over to his friend’s house where the learning was to take place. To his surprise, the gate of the yard was locked. He knocked quietly on the gate until his friend opened the door. It was only then that he realized that he had arrived two hours early. But, the boy did not return home. Instead, he entered the room they used for learning and slept with his head on the table, waiting for his friends to arrive.

A number of boys progressed quickly in their studies and desired to learn more and more. These exceptional students eventually joined the underground yeshiva where they studied according to the Tomchei Temimim regimen.