Moscow Wedding is a Celebration of History and Culture

Sixty years after he was forced to spend his childhood at home for fear of the Soviet authorities, Rabbi Yoseph Yitzchak Zaltzman celebrated his son’s wedding to the daughter of Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, this time with an open celebration.

By reporter

As a young boy, Yoseph Yitzchok Zaltzman spent most of his time at home, for fear of the Soviet authorities. Sixty years later, he was back in the capital of the former Soviet empire, this time openly celebrating at his son’s Chassidic wedding.

Born in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, to R’ Berel and Chaya Esther Zaltzman, Yoseph Yitzchok was raised in Samarkand, where his family had moved a year after his birth. Far away from Msocow and the KGB headquarters, a small Chabad community lived and even thrived to the extent they were able. With underground yeshivos, somewhat functioning shuls and a group of dedicated Lubavitcher families, the city was considered the Chabad ‘capital’ of the Soviet Union, and has since entered the lore of Chabad history

Nonetheless, the city was still under Soviet rule, and children were required to attend state schools. To avoid that, the young Yoseph Yitzchok stayed home for most of his childhood, leaving his house only on rare occasions. Later, he joined an underground Yeshivas Tomchei Tmimim which opened in the city. In 5731-1971, the family was finally allowed to leave the USSR, and later moved to New Jersey.

A full 52 years later, and 60 years since he was a young child in Samarkand, Rabbi Zaltzman, who has since become a dynamic shluchim to the Russian Community in Ontario, Canada, was back in Russia. But this time, it was for a very different occasion.

He was there to celebrate the wedding of his son Shmuly Zaltzman to Brachi Lazar, daughter of Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar. The wedding, which took place in Moscow, brought together hundreds from across Russia, the USA and Eretz Yisroel.

A highlight of the wedding was when a group of musicians dressed in the traditional garb of Bukharan Jews marched into the hall with long trumpets and other instruments. The group had been specially brought to the wedding to pay tribute to the Zaltzman family’s rich history of mesiras nefesh in Uzbekistan, the main hub of the Bukharan Jews.

Traditional Bukharan robes were also distributed to the guests, and Rabbis Lazar and Zaltzman donned them, as the ban began playing the niggun ‘Shimu Banim – Atem Shalom’, which originated from Bukharan Jews.

A large circle formed of wedding guests in flowing blue and gold robes, with Rabbi Lazar and Rabbi Zaltzman in the center, dancing in the Bukharan style.

Perhaps there could have been no starker contrast between ‘then’ and ‘now’ than that scene. A chossid who had to hide his Yiddishkeit behind closed doors just a few decades ago was now dancing openly with the Chief Rabbi of the country that once oppressed him.

Indeed, a true tribute to a history of mesiras nefesh and the unique Yiddishe culture of the Bukharan Jews and the chassidim that lived among them.

Click here to download the teshura from the wedding.

VIDEO: Dancing in Tribute to Samarkand

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