In 1923, the Rebbe met Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn,
who then served as "Rebbe" (teacher and leader) of the
world wide Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
Six years earlier, the Communist Party had wrested
control of the Russian Empire, and the Party's Yevsekzia ("Jewish
Section") embarked on a ruthless war against Judaism. Schools,
synagogues and religious institutions were shut down. Religious
leaders were imprisoned, and many were summarily shot in the underground
execution chambers of the Secret Police.
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak led the struggle to keep Judaism
alive in Soviet Russia, dispatching his emissaries to the length
and breadth of the land to establish underground schools, mikvahs,
and supply lines of financial aid and kosher food. The Rebbe joined
him in the highly secret and highly dangerous work. In 1926, the
Rebbe became engaged to marry Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak's second daughter,
When, in the summer of 1927, agents of the Yevsekzia
paid a midnight visit to Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak's Leningrad apartment
to arrest him, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka signaled the fact to the Rebbe
from a window, so that the Rebbe could destroy the "evidence",
warn all those involved, and set in motion the international effort
that would commute the death sentence placed on Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak
and obtain his release.
The Rebbe was one of the select circle of family
members allowed to leave the country with Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak in
1927. The network of teachers and activists remained in place, and
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak continued to direct its activities from the
other side of the Iron Curtain until his passing in 1950, when the
Rebbe, whose own involvement never abated, assumed the leadership
In the darkest years of anti-religious persecution,
the Rebbe maintained contact with the Jews of the Soviet Union through
many secret channels, even sending emissaries in the guise of tourists
and business travelers. With the collapse of Communism in the beginning
of this decade, the Rebbe's network simply moved aboveground, to
continue to provide material and spiritual aid to Russian Jewry
in light of day.
Today, there are Chabad-Lubavich emissaries in
the former Soviet Union, laboring in --- cities help Russia's Jews
to reclaim their heritage.
Whenever he spoke about the suffering of Soviet
Jewry and the tremendous sacrifices they made to cling to their
faith, the Rebbe would be overcome by emotion. Whatever we do for
them, he would often say, is but an infinitesimal part of what they
give to us with their valiant commitment to our shared destiny.