cover image The Jewish Underground of Samarkand: How Faith Defied Soviet Rule

The Jewish Underground of Samarkand: How Faith Defied Soviet Rule

Rabbi Hillel Zaltzman. Mandel Vilar, $29.95 (424p) ISBN 978-1-942134-92-3

Zaltzman’s stirring memoir, which was originally published in 2015 as Samarkand and has been condensed for this new edition, recounts his attempts to preserve Jewish culture in Soviet Uzbekistan. Born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Zaltzman was three years old when his family fled the 1941 Nazi invasion and settled in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Conditions were harsh: work was difficult to come by, Jews were regularly subject to arrest, and classes on Jewish traditions had to be kept secret from the KGB and other Soviet authorities. When Zaltzman was 16, he joined a clandestine group called Chamah to promote the preservation of Judaism in the Soviet Union. In 1971, the author and his wife were given exit visas and allowed to immigrate to Israel. Since then, Zaltzman has founded a yeshiva, placed over 30,000 immigrant children in religious schools, and continued the work of Chamah. He writes of these achievements in steady, unshowy prose, succeeding in his stated goal to enlighten readers who are unaware of a thriving Jewish community in the former Soviet Union. It’s a fascinating blend of personal and cultural history. Agent: Regina Ryan, Regina Ryan Books. (Oct.)