This photo is one-of-a-kind and is a snapshot of the dark days in the Soviet Union.
The photo was taken in the days and months leading up to the terrifying times that followed in the next two years when scores of chassidim were arrested and never heard of again. The location was a Jewish-run factory in Pushkin, outside Leningrad, (Petersburg) Russia, in the year 5696/1936. It was apparently snapped during break time when workers were given time to learn Torah and daven.
As religious institutions were closed by the government, many great rabbonim and mashpiyim were forced into manual labor to provide for their families. Those that didn’t were considered “parasites” and not part of helpful society. They were thus grateful if they could work in such factories and turn out their quotas without being mechalel shabbos.
In the photo we see as numbered:
- Reb Peretz Mochkin, mashpia in Montreal. Passed away in 5742/1982.
- Reb Avrohom Elya Plotkin, rov in several cities and later Rosh Yeshiva in Tomchei Tmimim in Pocking. Niftar in Paris in 5709/1948 and later buried in Tzfas.
- Reb Gavriel Shapira – died in the siege of Leningrad circa 5702/1942.
- Reb Shmuel Menachem Klein, later in Nachlas Har Chabad.
- Reb Yisroel Shimon Kalmenson, later “the Rebbe’s shochet” in New York.
- Reb Efraim Dzhor. No further details.
- Reb Shamshon Charitonov, son of Reb Sholom, famous baal menagen. Later in New York.
- Reb Michoel Lipsker, later the Rebbe’s first shliach to Morocco. Passed away in 5745/1985 in New York.
- Reb Meir Dubrawski, uncle of R’ Heishke and brother in law of Reb Zalman Shimon Dworkin, rov of Crown Heights
- Reb Eliyohu Valotzky, died in Leningrad siege. His son Reb Moshe Valotzky lived in Nachlas Har Chabad.