Prison photos provide a piercing glimpse into self-sacrifice

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Recently discovered mugshots of two famous Chassidim R ‘ Nissen Nemenov and R ‘ Asher Sasonkin give an unfiltered glimpse of the suffering and selflessness of maintaining Judaism during the Communist era. Full story

By COLlive reporter

The legendary rabbi Nissen Nemenov inspired thousands of Yeshiva bochurim as Mashpia in Samarkand and Tashkent in Uzbekistan and later in Yeshiva Tomchei Tmimim in Brunoy, France. R ‘ Asher Sasonkin was an avid chossid and a prominent figure of the 770 Eastern Parkway for decades.

Both were men of self-sacrifice to keep the Jewish flame alive in the Soviet Union. They risked their lives to keep the Torah and the Mitzvot and to run underground schools in Shadarim. They were eventually captured and exiled to Siberia.

In recent days, photos of them were discovered by the rabbi Boruch Gorin, a Chabad Shliach in Moscow and an author.

These are rare images that provide an unfiltered glimpse of the Chassidim sufferings experienced during those years behind the Iron Curtain and their indescribable Mesiras Nefesh.

Reb Nissan Nemenov in a prison photo:
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R ‘Nissen’s indictment states that “in addition to providing religious education, he taught his student’s anti-Soviet ideas.” Similar allegations appear in numerous indictments filed against the Hasidim during these years.

In 5690, about two years after his marriage, he was arrested in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) where he runs a clandestine Cheder and is sentenced to 3 years of exile in Siberia.

R ‘Nissan in its last years:

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After his release he was appointed Mashpia in Samarkand. Years later he was sent by the Friediker Rebbe to participate in the management of Brunoy’s Yeshiva. Over time, he became the Menahel and the main Mashpia of the Yeshiva.

R ‘Nissen Nemenov was the symbol of a true Chossid; Friediker Rebbe described him as Tanya’s Beinoni. He died in 5744 and was buried in Har Hazeisim.

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R ‘Asher Sassonkin, top in prison, bottom: learning with his close friend R’ Mendel Futerfas obm

R ‘Asher Sassonkin was born in 5668, and also acted with Messiras Nefesh to preserve Yiddishkeit in Russia and was exiled to Siberia.

Before leaving Russia in 5724, he received a message from the Rebbe saying that “Lefum Tza’arah Agra” – “the reward is in proportion to trials”.

He settled in Jerusalem and then moved to New York a few years later. He was a prominent figure of 770 – many remember him as the one who lit the Menorah before the Rebbe on every Chanukah. He died in 5748.


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