Memoirs of Rebbetzin Chana, Part XXX:The Rabbinate of Yekatrinoslav
[M.] Ussishkin’s father-in-law, Sergei Pavlov Fallei, was also one of the city’s most respected members of the Zionist movement. His father,5however, had been a Chasidic Jew from Lithuania, a wealthy man, who had given his son a religious education. Sergei was highly intelligent and, although far from being G‑d-fearing, was very Torah learned and retained his love and respect for traditional Jewish scholarship.
Following the meeting at which the Zionists resolved to oppose Schneerson’s candidacy, Fallei told the Chasidic “side”—which had proposed his candidacy—that he wished to meet the young Rabbi. An evening meeting was arranged with several prominent lay members of the community attending as well.
After spending time together in conversation, the others left the two of them, Schneerson and Fallei, alone.
Fallei was a trained engineer, having studied engineering after his marriage. Due to his outstanding aptitude, he was the sole Jewish student accepted at the university where he studied, which normally barred Jews. Later he designed the bridge across the Dnieper River, one of the largest bridges in Russia.
Considering the Yekatrinoslav rabbinate to be an issue of great interest to many Orthodox and Chasidic communities, Fallei was eager to get to know the candidate. If he would find him to possess the qualities and virtues that, in his opinion, befitted the Rav of such a community, he would work with all his might to get him appointed.
Accordingly, the meeting had the nature of a gathering until 9:00 o’clock p.m. Then, however, it became more like an examination.
Falei addressed three questions to Schneerson; two of them I remember with very distinctly:
1) What did Chasidism accomplish, and why are Kabbalah and Chasidut necessary? 2) On the subject of assimilation. The third, if I recall correctly, concerned emunah, belief.
Schneerson’s responses lasted from 9:00 p.m. until 4:00 a.m.
Following the meeting, Fallei called a group of acquaintances and urged them to form an “army,” which he would lead, to fight for this candidate’s appointment as Rav. Having come to know him, he said, nothing should stop Schneerson’s appointment, whatever the cost: “Such a towering personality shouldn’t be allowed to go elsewhere.”
At its own meeting, however, the Zionist party had decided to oppose my husband’s candidature. Accordingly, if Fallei remained a party member, he could not participate in advancing my husband’s appointment. He therefore formally handed in his withdrawal from the party in order to remain free to work on the issue of the rabbinate as he found fit.
The Zionists tried all means at their disposal not to accept his resignation. Fallei, in his own right, was a tremendous loss for them, besides the fact that he was Ussishkin’s father-in-law (although, as even Ussishkin agreed, Fallei was a far greater personality than he).
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