Hanukkah has a spiritual bond with the struggle for the free exit of Soviet Jewry; an attempt by the Greeks to force the Jews to assimilate, and many stories of heroism as well as significant events took place in the month of Kislev / December.
Former prisoner of Zion Yosef Begun, reflects on the holiday, past and present: in Soviet Prison, on his exile to Siberia years later, and finally in freedom in Israel.
Jerusalem Post article Home-made miracles of Hanukkah
Slideshow page 2: Cold war map
Tell the students -
The Soviet Union was one of the two superpowers in the world (along with the United States), but this power did not last and disbanded in 1991, only after 74 years of existence.
The occupying government tried to erase any non-Russian communist identity.
In the Soviet Union there were 3 million Jews, but the policy was against religion, any religion.
The Soviet regime banned Jewish life, but on the other hand prevented Jews from entering Israel.
In the eyes of the Soviet leadership – the departure of the Jews was a symbol of the failure of propaganda that the Soviet Union is a paradise on earth.
Therefore, any expression of Judaism, *Zionism, sympathy for Israel or the desire to immigrate to Israel was considered treason.
Many were arrested without actual crime, and sent to prison for espionage or treason.
The Soviet government treated citizens as state property, and it was forbidden to leave the country without special permission: not for a trip and certainly not to leave the USSR. Anyone who wanted to leave had to go through the Interior Ministry, and usually get a refusal (AKA *Refusenik).
According to the *USSR, the Soviet society is superior and preferable and so a sane person will not want to leave. If someone is interested in leaving, it's a sign that he needs remedial education in order to get him back on track.
In the Soviet Union, unemployment was prohibited by law.
The Refuseniks, marked as “traitors”, were often fired from their jobs after applying to leave, and thus became criminals.
Slideshow page 3:
The KGB men would follow, well ... everyone. They recorded and documented, especially of those who wanted to leave and those who celebrate Jewish holidays.
In the photo: Jews performing a kiddush in a forest in Moscow USSR, with KGB personnel watching behind them.
Slideshow pages 4-9: Jews secretly celebrating Hanukah.
Leave the presentation on page 9, and let students read or read the article to them:
Slideshow page 10:
After reading the article, ask the students:
Why do you think it was important for Joseph Begun and his friends, to celebrate Hanukkah, to light candles even in the Gulag when they were hungry and tired, and even to build a menorah when he was in exile?