As our educational activities expanded, there was an urgent need for prayer books for the hundreds of children who learned in what was quickly becoming a network of classes in various towns. Aside for purposes of prayer, we needed these siddurim to teach the alphabet and for general reading practice. There were already volumes of the Chumash, Mishnah, and Talmud in the shuls, but the prayer books were used more often and would get worn out quickly.

We found out that Rabbi Yehuda Leib Levin, the chief rabbi of Russia, had printed Sephardic rite prayer books for the main synagogue in Moscow. These siddurim were printed by the order of the government, with the sole intent of publicizing to the world that Russia was a free and democratic country. It was obvious to all that only a small number of the prayer books, if any, would reach other shuls, with the majority of them remaining in storage back in Moscow.

At that time, R. Mordechai Goldschmidt was planning to visit his in-laws in Moscow, and he was given the job of purchasing these books. The siddurim were held in storage by the attendant of the main synagogue, but in order to buy them from him Mordechai had to first convince him that he was not a KGB agent. He also had to be cautious that this warden would not in turn tattle on him, seeing as anyone who held an official position in a shul was a government appointee. We hoped that in exchange for a nice sum he would agree to the deal.

Mordechai gained the warden's trust and he agreed to sell the prayer books to him. But how was he to remove so many siddurim without drawing unwanted attention? Mordechai went to shul for a number of days, and each time he took a few dozen books, until he removed a total of 850 siddurim. We paid fifteen rubles for each book, which was a considerable sum at the time.

Over a short period of time we were able to send all of the prayer books to Samarkand, and from there we distributed them to the cities and towns where the learning took place.

This “siddur operation” gave new wind to our activities. Although many of us were reluctant to pray from prayer books printed by the KGB, for the hundreds of children who needed them, it was a wonderful solution. And if such a siddur was discovered in someone’s home, it was not a terrible crime, since it was “kosher”: it had been printed in Moscow, not in Israel or America.