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Against All Odds

Chabad of Stony Brook hosted a Shabbat weekend with Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich, a Former Prisoner of Zion and Refusenik. Yosef shared a dramatic story of survival, near hijacking, risk taking and perserverance as he worked with friends to highlight the plight of Russian Jewry during those difficult years. His riveting story was inspiring and kept the crowd spellbound and entertained as they heard firsthand from this Jewish Hero.

About the Speaker 

Yosef began to develop his Jewish identity as a young man living under Soviet oppression in Riga. He helped organize a Jewish underground and then, with a group desperate to emigrate to Israel but denied exit visas, planned to take a Russian plane to fly it to freedom.

Before the group could board the plane, the KGB arrested them all, resulting in the infamous Leningrad Trial which riveted international attention. The defendants exhibited great bravery in court, and the international uproar moderated two of the death sentences.

Yosef has incredible stories of how he survived 11 years of the Gulag, resisting all attempts to squash his body and soul, and deepening his faith, commitment and love for Israel and the Jewish people. Worldwide pressure by the Soviet Jewry movement — especially by students — finally gained his release to Israel. Currently, he works as a Rabbi in Israel.

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