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Unbroken Spirit: A Heroic Story Of Faith, Courage and Survival Hardcover – June 25, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 351 pages
  • Publisher: Gefen Publishing (June 25, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9652295639
  • ISBN-13: 978-9652295637
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.7 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #707,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Yosef Mendelevich is a true hero of one of the most successful human rights struggles in history: the rescue of Soviet refuseniks and Prisoners of Zion from an antisemitic captivity.... This remarkable memoir must be read by all who love freedom and cherish the right to practice their religion. --Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Law School

A compelling personal story and an engrossing piece of history
Scott Kirsner, Boston Globe

An extraordinary testament. It tells us that nothing can kill the human spirit. Even living in a totalitarian regime, where his basic rights were denied, Mendelevich managed to rise to great heights of bravery and faith. He recounts his story beautifully and powerfully. It is impossible not to be moved by the resilience of his Jewish soul. --Gal Beckerman, author of When They Come for Us, We ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry, winner of the 2010 National Jewish Book Award

The biography of Prisoner of Zion Rav Yosef Mendelevich, one of the shining examples of the struggle for Soviet Jewry against Communist rule, teaches us how the power of a single individual can change the world: how the power of faith and the uncompromising determination of the spirit can subdue an enemy s power. The book Unbroken Spirit tells the story of an extraordinary man whose whole life is a long treatise of Kiddush Hashem and great self-sacrifice for the sake of observing the Torah and its mitzvot in all situations in pain and crisis and also in peace and comfort.
Rav Yisrael Meir Lau, Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, Chairman of Yad Vashem

Yosef Mendelevich was among the first to begin our struggle, paving the way for hundreds of thousands of Jews to leave the Soviet Union. His personal story teaches that even under difficult conditions man can overcome all obstacles, especially when he seeks out the spiritual significance of his Judaism within his life. --Avital Sharansky, human rights activist

About the Author

Yosef Mendelevich, born in Riga, Latvia, in 1947, served twelve years in the Soviet gulag for his Jewish activism. Since his release in 1981, he has lived in Israel, where he received his rabbinic ordination and a master s degree in Jewish history. This is his third book.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Glenn Richter on August 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
It's incredible: untold thousands of books, films, plays and recollections document Jews' greatest modern-day loss, the Holocaust. But American Jewry seems to have assimilated the redemption of Soviet Jews -- a miraculous triumph -- and the resultant maturation of the American Jewish community, without analyzing why and how it happened, and the lesson we can draw for today: it need take only a group of utterly determined people to change the course of Jewish history.

Yosef Mendelevich's autobiography, "Unbroken Spirit" is a great tool to understand Soviet Jews' awakening from the inside. Smoothly translated by Benjamin Balint, Yosef recreates the stirring of his Jewish spirit in a communist family in Riga. With great clarity, Yosef chronicles each of the huge challenges he faced, explaining the bases of his decisions to identify as a Jew, engage in underground Jewish activity, join the plan to hijack a Soviet airplane to escape to freedom, be strong at his interrogation and trial, and survive the gulag with his soul intact. Yosef delineates his complete determination to carry out what he came to understand to be God's commandments and the necessity not to concede an inch to his Soviet tormenters. The greater Yosef is oppressed, the higher his spirit soars.

Despite the sketchy information which seeped out of the USSR about his background, his defiance at the infamous 1970 Leningrad Trial, and his unyielding adherence to Jewish tradition during 11 long years in Soviet labor camps and prisons, Yosef became a major symbol in the West of the heroism of the Russian Jewish Prisoners for Zion. Yosef's aim is not only for readers to understand his personal story, but to stir our moral conscience and for Jewish readers, strengthen their collective identity. To that aim, he succeeds and inspires most admirably.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Donald H. Harrison on July 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
How Judaism survived the gulag.

Unbroken Spirit: A Heroic Story of Faith, Courage, and Survival by Yosef Mendelevich, Gefen Publishing House; 2012; ISBN 978-965-229-563-7; 337 pages.

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO -Feeling desperate that Jews were not allowed to emigrate freely from the Soviet Union, Yosef Mendelevich and a few compatriots planned some 42 years ago to hijack a plane from the tiny airfield of Priozersk, near the USSR border with Finland, and have it flown over Finland to neighboring Sweden. From there they would seek asylum in Israel. One of the troubles with the plan was that too many people knew about it, and it came to the attention of the KGB, which successfully arrested the plotters on June 15, 1970.

Mendelevich was in the vanguard of those brave souls who came to be known as Soviet "refuseniks," Jews who had sought to emigrate but were refused permission to leave. Although not all tried to hijack airplanes, all felt the oppressive opposition of a state that couldn't admit to itself, much less to the world, that great numbers of people desperately wanted to leave its "worker's paradise." Tried and convicted for his role in the plot, Mendelevich was sentenced to 15 years, but this later was reduced to 11 years.

Like many Soviet Jews who were denied formal education in the precepts and practices of their religion, Mendelevich had only a spotty knowledge of Judaism and Israel. However, he knew in his heart that both the religion and the land were essential to his identity. Once he was imprisoned, he began a quest to transform himself from an uninformed Latvian Jewish citizen of the Soviet Union, who had been force-fed communism his entire life, into a pious, Shomer-Shabbos, Israel-bound Jew.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Hayman on January 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A remarkable account of the power an individual standing up against the might of insurmountable physical and psychological pressures of a dominating bullying state. Yosef Mendelevich is a hero of our times. a must for everyone
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