Last Sunday was a historical day in Smolensk, Russia. The city celebrated the opening of a mikva which will serve the Smolensk region and the visitors to nearby Lubavitch.
Hundreds of local residents and guests including Chief rabbi of Russia Rabbi Berl Lazar gathered with Rabbi Levi Mondshine, chief rabbi of Smolensk and the region, to celebrate a siyum sefer torah which culminated with escorting the torah into the local shul and community center, which is in its final construction stages. They then cut the ribbon and inaugurated the beautiful new mikva building, which will serve the Jews in Smolensk and the surrounding region, and the visitors to the ohelim in Lubavitch.
The final letters in the torah were penned by the sponsors- the brothers Gavriel and Menashe Alashvilli and their brother in law Reuven Shamilasvilli- founders of the “Planeta Dobra” fund-, Rabbi Lazar, representatives of the local jewish community and guest, including Rabbi DOvid Mondshine, director of “Keren Leviev”, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Zaklos, Chief Rabbi of Bryansk and the region, Rabbi Yechezkel Lifshitz, Rabbi of Katamandu, delegates from the “Ohel Yitzchok” shul headed by the Rabbi of Jews of Georgian descent in Moscow, Chacham Avraham Alashvilli, and a group of students from Yeshivas Tomchei Tmimim Moscow along with some anash from Moscow. The sofer Rabbi Shabtai Michalashvilli came from Israel especially to participate in the special occasion. Rabbi Moshe Boruch Beinish eloquently and succinctly emceed the event.
After finishing the writing of the Torah and the beginning of the hakafos outdoors, the crowd burst out excitedly into spontaneous dancing while talented keyboardist Rabbi Elimelech Veissberg from Moscow accompanied them. When the Torah was reverently put into the aron kodesh, everyone gathered around the building of the mikvaos for the ribbon cutting ceremony. The mikvaos were built with the help of the “Planeta Dobra” fund, the Mikva fund of the Rabbinical Center of Europe, and “Keren Ateres Rut” founded by Rabbi Yitzchok Mishan.
IN his speech, Rabbi Lazar mentioned the special significance of this mikva. Not only will this mikva once again serve the Jews of the Smolensk region after over 80 years with no working mikva, but this mikva is also specifically intended to be used by all those who are visiting the ohelim of the Rebbe Maharash and the Tzemach Tzedek in nearby Lubavitch. The children of the sponsors spoke about their grandparents in whose memory the torah was written and the mikva was donated.
After the sponsors cut the ribbon and unveiled the plaques, the mezuzos were affixed by Rabbi Berel Lazar and Rabbi Dovid Mondshine. Applause and excitment filled the air while the assembled toured the beautiful facility and then adjourned to the banquet in the main hall of the almost completed new shul.
Rabbi Levi Mondshine mentioned the yahrtzeit of his grandfather Rabbi Dovid Bravman which was on that day, and how he felt privileged to be showing such a public renaissance of jewish life in russia on the day that marks the passing of his grandfather, a renowned chossid who lived and worked with mesiras nefesh in Russia under the Soviet regime. Rabbi Mondshine thanked all of the sponsors and the participants who came to celebrate.
Regional government officials came to honor the Jewish community with their presence on this momentous day. Local TV and press widely covered the events.
Rabbi Yossi Peles of Fleishman Productions helped coordinate the event.