Where did the money really come from? Among the members of Chamah were a number of businessmen, myself included, and we were able to set aside significant sums for the teachers’ salaries. The practice among the Chassidic young men in Samarkand was to donate 20 percent of their profits to charity, as per the Alter Rebbe’s directive in his Tanya. In the months that we earned more than usual, we were happy to set aside even more than that figure.

(The idea of giving from one’s money for the benefit of communal work was something we did not think twice about. When we heard that in Western countries receipts are given as confirmation of donations, we did not understand what that was all about. When one sends a telegram or package, he receives a receipt. But for charity? Why would one need a receipt for that?!

It was explained to us that a receipt was issued to assure the donor that his donation had indeed been used for the organization and had not made its way to someone’s personal pocket. Still, those kinds of reservations and skepticism when giving to charity seemed incongruous to us, and we thought it all quite strange.)

Another source of funding came from the food packages that we received from the American Jewish aid organizations Ezras Achim and the Joint Distribution Committee. These packages were sent to individual families, and contained various home goods; clothing, like shirts and blouses; some other fabric items, as well as Parker pens; items that could easily yield a nice sum on the black market. The packages from Ezras Achim were larger and more valuable than those from the Joint, and when sold on the black market, could go for nearly one thousand rubles—enough money to support a family for almost a year!

Many of the people who received these packages needed them simply to be able to put food in their mouths, but sometimes they were received by people who did not have such a need for the additional provisions. They would sell the packages on the black market and give the money to charity.

One time, after I was married, I received a package from my father-in-law in Minsk. Upon opening the package we found numerous expensive items, and I suspected that the package had originated from abroad. I had heard that such packages were purchased with money set aside for tzedakah and as such, I did not want to benefit from it. Thank G‑d, I earned a sufficient livelihood and had no need for charity, being able to support others myself.

However, there were a number of items in the package that my wife liked very much. I donated the rest of the package to Chamah, as well as the market value of the items my wife kept.

When my father-in-law heard about this, he wasn’t too excited. “Who gave you permission to sell my package? I received the package and sent it to my daughter!”

So what was the story behind the package?

My father-in-law, R. Efraim Fishel Demichovsky, was orphaned from his mother on the day of his bris. He was subsequently raised by his mother’s brother, the famed Rogotchover Gaon, one of the most brilliant Torah scholars in modern Jewish history. When he was sixteen, the Rogotchover sent him to learn in Lubavitch. A few years later, he also arranged for his nephew to study with Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin, who would later become one of the most prominent rabbinic figures of Israel. At the time, Rabbi Zevin served as rabbi nearby, and he agreed to teach the Rogotchover's nephew shechita, for which he was paid ten gold coins a week.

When Rabbi Zevin heard that his former student had married off his daughter, he was by then living in Jerusalem and he sent over the package as a wedding present for us. This is why my father-in-law wanted us to use the contents of the package, and was disappointed to hear that we had sold it.

Occasionally I would also receive packages from Ezras Achim. I did not want to be tempted to use its contents, so I would bring the unopened package to Chamah’s “headquarters” so that it could be sold to benefit the organization.

At that time, the custom among the Chabad community in Tashkent was that when a couple got married, the newlyweds’ friends would assist them in purchasing a house. Being that I earned an ample income, I merited to assist a number of our young newlyweds in Tashkent, as well as in Samarkand, in this regard.

When I had started to look for a match of my own, I did not have nearly enough money on hand to buy a house, or even for the wedding expenses. My mother said to me, “Here you are helping others, when you don’t even have enough money for yourself!”

I replied: “Thank G‑d, I have a consistent source of livelihood. Others, who don’t have this opportunity, are in need of support from others. Don’t worry!”

R. Moshe Nissilevitch, like many other Lubavitchers, was a manual laborer whose salary wasn’t enough to support his family. He was among those who truly needed the food packages. There was a long period of time when R. Moshe did not receive any food packages, and his financial state was dreadful.

One day, he received a package from Ezras Achim that was worth a lot of money on the black market. This occurred before the summer, about which time the members of Chamah held a meeting to discuss using the summer vacation from public school to expand our work. Such an expansion necessitated an increase in our budget, and the need to procure extra funds to finance our operations.

Aside from R. Moshe Nissilevitch, who was a laborer, the participants at the meeting were businessmen: R. Dovber (Berke) Schiff, R. Mordechai Goldschmidt, my brother Berel, and myself. We were all aware that the summer would offer a unique opportunity for teaching children, and each of us contributed large amounts until we had amassed the sufficient funds to double our work.

Being aware of R. Moshe’s dire financial situation, we were astonished when he brought the package to the meeting. “This is my participation in the summer expenses,” he said.

We protested. “You don’t have food for your children!” we said.

“I should soon be receiving a package from the Joint,” R. Moshe defended himself. “I will be able to use that to support my family.”

We refused to accept his explanation. “Who knows if the package will ever come?” we protested. “And even if it does, the package from the Joint is not worth as much as the one from Ezras Achim. Use this package for yourself, and if you receive a package from the Joint, you can donate it.”

R. Moshe remained unswayed by our objections and donated the package to Chamah. I think he did not even tell his wife about it, although I am certain she would have agreed herself.