The Rabbi of Minsk:
Lonely Survivor of a Great Jewish Past
The Rabbi of Minsk is a small, stout man with a round, almost jolly face. His gray beard flows over onto the blue robe he wears, and a square, four-cornered skullcap rests on the shaggy gray hair of his head. He smiles often, in a sad sort of way, displaying even rows of silver teeth. He must be in his sixties, I am sure, although his appearance gives little clue to his exact age.
He was studying when I entered the tiny synagogue last September, sitting at a small, wooden table with two other elderly men and quietly chanting the ancient verses with periodic, rhythmical nods of his head.
As we entered, I took a small skullcap from my pocket and placed it on my head. The “Intourist” guide, whose worn hat never seemed to come off, looked at me in a puzzled sort of way, as if he had never really seen me before. The Rabbi noticed us, interrupted his study, and rose to greet us. The guide spoke a few words to him in Russian, explaining, I suppose, that I was an American student who was interested in Jewish life in the Soviet Union.
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