My memories of R. Berke Chein begin with my childhood in Samarkand. R. Berke came to Samarkand together with the other Lubavitcher chassidim who had fled to central Russia during World War II. The Lubavitcher refugees formed a Chabad community and within a short time they had opened secret schools and yeshivas.

R. Berke became one of the teachers for children in Samarkand, and many parents wanted their children to be his students. One day, my father came home and happily announced that he had been able to arrange for me to be in R. Berke’s class.

I was six years old at the time and I was very apprehensive about this piece of news. I had heard that R. Berke punished his students with a kontchik—a leather whip nailed to a rod, as was customary for the schoolteachersof old. One student, Mottel Kalmanson, had told me that he was a good teacher and never hit anyone, but I was still worried. Mottel, I thought to myself, is R. Berke’s nephew, so perhaps he receives special treatment.

When I joined R. Berke’s class I discovered that although a leather whip hung on the wall, it was never used.