Erected at the behest of the Russian Holocaust Center and the Russian Jewish Congress’ Restore Dignity Project, the memorial marks the spot where Nazi forces gathered residents in a small ravine by the city’s slaughterhouse before massacring the lot. The monument, which was unveiled last Thursday, includes the names of 74 people whose names could be confirmed by Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust museum and research institute.
At the unveiling ceremony, Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Yitzchak Kogan, director of Moscow’s Bronnaya Synagogue, and Smolensk regional Chief Rabbi Levi Mondshine led attendees in a traditional memorial prayer. The town of Lubavitch served as the headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement until the Fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Dovber Schneersohn, moved to Rostov in the early 20th century.The ceremony was attended by Smolensk deputy Gov. Sergei Goryunov and other local officials, Russian Jewish Congress President Yuri Kaner, Israeli diplomats and Jewish community members.
By Tamar Runyan
The letter to Ilya Altman
"Dear Ilya Alexandrovich,
Thanks a lot for your warm words said at the ceremony at Lubavichi and directed to Russia’s Evangelical Christians. I am glad that such an important event took place. We did not know how people would respond to our call in churches, but thank God, everything went fine.
When I contacted Jewish public organization in Belgorod I noted that people were not so eager to do something for the alive, let alone the dead. Therefore, it was pleasure to see that not only Jews responded to this call but also bishops, pastors, and simple laymen belonging to Russia’s Evangelical churches.
At the ceremony, Yuri Kanner asked “Why?” To this question we need to answer ourselves and people. Why are we doing it? We are not politicians, we do not need political gains. We even lose something by getting involved in such projects. Yet, we get much much more. This is our gratitude to the Lord, our atonement, our stretched hands of peace and love, our hearts. We are doing it because 2,000 years ago one young Jew brought to heathen a light of Torah, 10 commandments, the highest moral law. For us this is not a secular event, this is an important spiritual action. I believe that today we change the face of Russia and church. Russia is not only about pogroms and church is not only about crusades and curses against Jews. It is also us, millions of Russian Evangelical Christians whose heart contains a candid love of and openness to Jewish people who gave Savior to this world.
God save Russia and have mercy on us.
Boris Kohan, pastor"