6 Kislev 5778 24/11/2017

Rabbi Levi Yitzchok’s Courage in Jail

Despite the brutality and hardship of his prison sentence, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok remained strong and courageous. Those who shared his cell were deeply impressed by his bravery and determination to hold onto his Jewish values. Even the secret police recorded his courage and his refusal to betray the brave individuals who worked with him.

A non-Jewish professor who spent some time in jail with Rabbi Levi Yitzchok later told Rebbitzen Chana:
“I will never forget this remarkable man for his sharp intellect, extensive scholarship, and incredible courage. Four of us were crammed into one cell and the only reason why we didn’t lose our minds was because we were so affected by Rabbi Levi Yitzchok’s tremendous valor. Despite our suffering and feelings of depression, his indomitable spirit sustained us. He stood by his religious principles with unwavering determination. One incident in particular deeply moved me. One day the prison authorities ordered all the inmates to shave off their beards. Some of the prisoners, including a number of Rabbis and other religious Jews, unsuccessfully attempted to resist. Not so with Rabbi Levi Yitzchok! When his turn came, he declared firmly,
“ ‘I will not remove my beard under any circumstances!” The prison warders were so surprised by the authoritative tone of his voice that they left him alone.”

Other testimonies regarding Rabbi Levi Yitzchok’s prison sentence were recorded by the secret police themselves. When Communism finally fell after seventy years of Soviet rule, the archives of the KGB were opened. Among the many documents that became accessible were Rabbi Levi Yitzchok’s interrogation files. These included warrants for his arrest and imprisonment, search protocols, accounts of his many interrogations, whether individual or with other prisoners, charge sheets, and the details of his trial. Rabbi Levi Yitzchok’s file also contains an official “rehabilitation” certificate that was only composed several years ago. This is an official government apology, which states that he was actually innocent of the charges brought against him about fifty years previously.

These files clearly show the determination of the authorities to “prove” that Rabbi Levi Yitzchok was guilty of his crimes. Among the charges against him were: being the “ringleader of an underground clerical anti-Soviet organization, building an illegal ritual bath, cooperating with “extreme reactionary religious groups from abroad,” holding unlawful gatherings in his home, establishing funds for assisting the wives and children of Jewish prisoners and exiles, and receiving matzos and money from abroad to be distributed among needy Jews.

These accounts clearly demonstrate Rabbi Levi Yitzchok’s determination not to supply his interrogators with the names of anyone who helped him. The only names he ever mentioned were of people who were either already dead or had left the former Soviet Union. At many points, he would only answer “I don’t remember” or “I don’t know.”

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Featured photo
The president of Kazakhstan presents the head shliach with a document signed by the government (in 2000) denouncing the persecution of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok.
The president of Kazakhstan presents the head shliach with a document signed by the government (in 2000) denouncing the persecution of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok.
31/07/2007
Featured gallery
A Gallery  of Notable Visitors to the Chabad Center in Almaty and the Tomb of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok
A Gallery of Notable Visitors to the Chabad Center in Almaty and the Tomb of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok
20/02/2007