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Unbroken Spirit: A Heroic Story Of Faith, Courage and Survival Hardcover – June 25, 2012
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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
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It was an amazing story of sacrifice and determination to do what was rightPublished 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
Rabbi Mendelevich's mesiras nefesh for Yiddishkeit is an inspiration!Published 19 months ago by Gabriel Goldstein
Joseph Mendelevich is a hero in our time. Eveyone person should read it and learn from his strenght. Great book.Published on December 14, 2013 by Jackie Abels