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Samarkand 1942 - Luzern 2004

Friday, 24 June, 2011 - 11:23 am


This week there was a funeral in Luzern of a very special person in the Jewish community.

Rabbi Kopelman was the Rosh Yeshiva, the leader of the Rabbinical College in Obernau, on the outskirts of Luzern. For many years he taught the students, who are mostly from the United States and other countries. This week he passed away at the age of 106. Up until about 3 months ago I would see him from time to time still teaching Torah and educating his students.

His life story is very interesting and fascinating, and there are many stories told about him, his greatness and his knowledge.

I actually chose to share with you something simple but touching which I experienced when visiting him.

In order to make the story understood, here is some background.

Samarkand 1942
During the war, Rabbi Kopelman found himself, a yeshiva student, in Samarkand (today a city in Uzebkistan).

The days were very difficult, there was hunger and the food was given out sparingly to the young guys.

In Samarkand there was a Jew named Yehuda Chitrik ob”m, who noticed young Yitzchak Kopelman, who despite his physical hunger pains, would sit and study the Torah for hours. This touched his heart. Chitrik decided to take action and for quite some time  he somehow managed to get food to the young man so that he could devote himself completely to the Torah. This way, saving not only his body but also his spirit.

Luzern, 2004

One day my colleague and friend, Rabbi Eliezer Chitrik, the Chabad Rabbi in Nürenberg Germany, was visiting us with his family.

During his visit it occurred to me that Rabbi Eliezer is the great-grand child of the above mentioned Yehuda Chitrik, who was 104 years old at the time and living in NY, and I thought we should go and pay a visit to the Rosh Yeshiva. And so we did.

We drove over to the Yeshiva and entered the room of Rabbi Kopelman, who was sitting on his chair, bent over his books.

I went over to him and introduced Rabbi Eliezer Chitrik saying (in Yiddish): "Ot dos is R’ Eliezer Chitrik, der Ur-einikel fun R’ Yehuda Chitrik” (this is R’ E. Chitrik, the great-grand child of R’ Y. Chitrik). "un dos is zayn zun..." (and this is his young son... the great-great grandson!)

I have seen Rabbi Kopelman many times, but I had never seen such happiness on his face as at that moment. His face actually shone from happiness and joy.

It was a pure human reaction, and we, who knew the story behind the smile, were very touched.

He reached out to Rabbi Chitrik and said: “Oy, oy, dein Zeide, dein Zeide…(your grandfather, your grandfather…)” He then went on to ask at length about the wellbeing of the grandfather and asked to give over his best regards.

We left the room with a special feeling.

Interestingly, Rabbi Chitrik also passed away at the exact same age as Rabbi Kopelman, at 106.

Rabbi Kopelman will forever be remembered in the Jewish history of Luzern.

Rivky and the children join me in wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Chaim

Comments on: Samarkand 1942 - Luzern 2004

sb wrote...

nice story


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