Most of us draw a blank. The name is not connected to any image that comes readily to mind–it’s just another geographical spot in that conglomerate of vague old-new nations awkwardly tagged, “The Former Soviet Union.”
For others, the name Kishinev has sinister connotations, recalling grim photos of piles of bodies–Jewish victims of the terrible pogroms which were perpetrated there at the turn of the century.
Today, these tragic scenes have happily given way to scenes of joy–scenes of a vibrant, spirited Jewish life. After decades of war, destruction and oppression, the Jewish community of Kishinev is experiencing a renaissance, unprecedented in modern times. Jewish life in Kishinev and its neighboring towns is once again alive and well. The catalyst and guiding spirit behind the Jewish community of Kishinev is Rabbi Zalman Abelsky, who, together with his wife of 50 years, has come to Kishinev from his home in Israel, to rebuild Jewish life which languished, a victim of the Holocaust of World War II and the destruction wrecked by the atheistic communist regime.
Natives of Russia, the Abelskys have lived in Israel for the past 40 years, but in spite of age and family ties, they rallied to the call to rebuild Jewish Moldova. Leaving their children and grandchildren in Israel, they arrived in Kishinev, emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, to “make it happen”– to bring about an awakening of the Jewish spirit in a place where it had lain dormant for nearly a century.
Although many of the young Jews of Moldova have opted to emigrate to Israel and a variety of other Western countries, there are still remain 10,000 Jews in Moldova who are spiritually hungry. These Jews yearn for a knowledge of their own identity as Jews.
It is this need, as well as the pressing material needs of a populace in the throes of an economic and social whirlwind, that the Abelskys have come to address.