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Remembering Purim of 1953

Front Row (left to right): Dr. Yosef Begun, Efim Madjdaniki, Dr. Les GlassmanBack row (left to right): Steve Linde, Dr.Alexander Rasburg Larry Pfeffer, Roy Scher, David Ben Reuven.

Participants not in the picture: Rabbi Doron Perez (Director World Mizrachi), Rabbi Dorron Klein (Director of Telfed), Dr. Dan Roginsky, Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich, Clara Suslensky.

Jerusalem Telfed recently hosted a pre-Purim event, however not at all what would be classified as a Purim celebration. The idea of holding  the event was that of Larry Pfeffer. Larry  grew up in Hungary and  was able to escape from  the country in 1956. Little is known or taught about the atrocities of the Soviet Regime, and events leading up to Purim 1953 in Soviet Russia under the totalitarian rule of Stalin. Larry invited Dr.Les Glassman – WITS Alumni Israel Representative and Roy Scher Jerusalem Telfed chairman to join forces in organizing and arranging this important event which was hosted at the World Mizrachi offices with the full support of CEO World Mizrachi, Rabbi Doron Perez.

The event was well attended and the crowd was exposed to much material in the form of speeches delivered by well-known "Prisoners of Zion", handouts, video recording of events and an extremely unique personal story. We were honored that Steve Linde, former Editor of The Jerusalem Post, was the moderator. The rich program began with Les officially opening the event, followed by Steve introducing the topics and presenters.

Rabbi Doron Perez gave an account of miracles in today's world with the topic  "Expecting the Unexpected". We were also honored that  Telfed C.E.O . Dorron Kline joined us and shared some wonderful ideas.

The program included:

  • Extracts from BBC production and news videos about Stalin's death
  • Slide show with Gulag map and table of estimated death toll due to international Communism, followed by about 30 paintings about the soviet Gulag by Nicolai Getman
  • Video of Nathan Sharansky: Personal memories of that time
  • Dr. Dan Roginsky: (Keynote): “Anti-Jewish campaign by the Stalin regime starting with 1948 and personal memories of that time”
  • Rabbi Yosef Mendelevitch: Personal memories of that time
  • Dr. Yosef Begun: Personal memories and Stalin's policy of “Final solution”
  • Les reads proposed Knesset law and request to Chief Rabbis to remember Purim 1953
  • Yeshayahu Nir video, : Memories of Rudolf Slansky trial in Czechoslovakia and why Stalin's death was mourned by Hashomer Hatzair kibbutzim
  • Andre Libik- video (in Budapest): When Stalin died – Memory from Budapest
  • Larry Pfeffer: 1952/3 “Zionist”, “Imperialist spy” and “Wallenberg” show trial preparations in Hungary  and brief thoughts on need for apolitical/truthful “Remembrance”  
  • Roy Scher: Remarks about Refusenik “bracelets” (bridge to future event about "LET MY PEOPLE GO" movement)

*There was a very touching moment when Roy Scher, chairman of Telfed Jerusalem, spoke of the two bracelets that he wore as a schoolboy in South Africa during the struggle for Soviet Jewry. One bracelet was engraved with Sharansky’s name, and another with the name of Yaakov Suslensky. One day, long after the struggle had been won, a woman came into Scher’s place of business in Jerusalem, and it turned out that her name was Clara Suslensky. Scher did a double take and asked her if she was related to a Yaakov Suslensky. She said that he was her husband, and that they were both living in Israel.

When Scher told her about his bracelet, it was her turn to do a double take. She went home and told her husband, who insisted that they go together to see Scher as soon as possible. Now widowed and living in Beersheba, Clara Suslensky came to Jerusalem to link bracelets with Scher and to show a model of the Liberty Bell that was given to her husband when he visited America.

Begun also had a memento from America. In May 1988, he had been invited to the White House by then-president Ronald Reagan, who gave him a Prisoner of Zion bracelet engraved with the name Yosef Begun. Reagan had been given the bracelet by a Canadian Jew and had placed it on his desk in the Oval Office so that he could be reminded every day of the plight of Soviet Jewry. *Story of the bracelet- written by Greer Fay Cashman for the Jerusalem Post, published Friday 10 March
  • David Ben-Reuven- Sings a Purim song

  • Les Glassman concluded the wonderful evening by thanking all participants and organizers and presenting Steve with a gift showing our appreciation. Roy made a Bracha on wine with a public Le'Chaim setting the tone for all to enjoy light snacks and drinks.

פורים שמח לכל עם ישראל

Article written by Roy Scher

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