Watch: Famed Refusnik R’ Yosef Mendelevitch Awes and Inspires the Minneapolis Community

Panoramic view of the crowd at a Congregation Bais Yisroel

Panoramic view of the crowd at a Congregation Bais Yisroel

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It began with was what some may call chance- but after it was over, everyone recognized it was the Ultimate Premier pulling the strings. 

R’ Mendelevitch’s 2012 Memoir, “Unbroken Spirit”

R’ Mendelevitch’s 2012 Memoir, “Unbroken Spirit”

On his way from Bozeman, Montana to his home in Jerusalem, R’ Yosef Mendelevitch realized that he had an 8-hour stopover in Minneapolis. Never one to waste time, R’ Mendelevitch graciously offered to visit the community and shared some (unprepared) remarks. The arrangements were quickly made and over 150 people came on a couple hours’ notice to hear the personal struggles of a real Jewish hero. R’ Mendelevitch in his humble and witty way told of his underground Jewish activism in Soviet Russia and his repeated attempts to escape. When their scheme to hijack an aircraft was discovered by the KGB, R’ Mendelevitch faced the prospect of the death penalty but ultimately served “only” 11 years in Soviet prison. He displayed superhuman strength and will while fiercely holding onto his Judaism. Those in the audience were visibly moved by the sacrifices R’ Mendelevitch made to wear a Yarmulka, and keep kosher and Shabbos. A hunger strike and international pressure ultimately had R’ Mendelevitch released and “expelled” to Israel in 1981. It was indeed a tremendous merit to host such a true Jewish hero.

For the full speech, see below. 

Listen or download audio below.