We had a special guest visit our shul this September – the humble and wise rabbi from Toronto, Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Reznik. Rabbi Reznik decided to visit the European cities from his youth: while his family is from Moldova, he was born and raised in Belarus – though he spent his summers with his grandmother in Rybnitsa and Calarasi.
The trip was very emotional and full of childhood memories. Although more than 30 years had passed since his last visit to Moldova, almost everything remained the same in his eyes: the same streets, the same houses, the same cars. ‘Rybnitsa is like a time capsule,” Rabbi Reznik said. “Everything is frozen in time, but in an outdated version.” Rabbi Reznik walked along the street where his grandmother’s house was located, and visited his family in the Jewish cemetery.
This was Rabbi Reznik’s first visit to the Kishinev Chabad Lubavitch Synagogue. Though he had been to Kishinev with his parents as a child, Soviet Jews could not visit synagogues without fear of retribution by the Soviet authorities.
Rabbi Reznik grew up in a secular family. He began to become familiar with Jewish tradition in Minsk when he was a teenager. At the time, he was studying at a school for students who were gifted in physics and math. When his parents decided to move to Israel during his last year of school, he decided to relax during his last year in school because he had already learned so much. This allowed him more free time and a chance to spend time getting to know others.
In those years, the revival of Jewish communities in the region had just begun. In front of the synagogue in Minsk, there was a large yard where everyone gathered on Shabbat. Rabbi Reznik began to join in on Saturdays, and soon he was spending all his free time in the synagogue. Then, the first sheliachs from the Lubavitcher Rebbe organized a small yeshiva – and Rabbi Reznik began joining everyday. This is how the learned Rabbi from Toronto began, step by step, to learn more about Jewish religion and tradition.
About three years after moving to Israel with his family, Rabbi Reznik left for America with the expectation of a speedy return to Eretz Yisrael with the coming of the moshiach. “As they say, a person thinks, but G-d decides,” said Rabbi Reznik with a smile. After all, he ended up in Canada, serving as the rabbi of a small synagogue. On Elul 18, at the celebration for the two great luminaries Rabbi Shem Tov (the founder of Chasidism) and Rabbi Shneur-Zalman (the Alter Rebbe, the founder of Chabad Chasidism), Rabbi Reznick delivered a speech for the entire Kishinev community. “I wish everyone happiness, good health, and wealth,” he told the community.