Since 1974, the Yarchei Kallah has taken place around the 20th of the Hebrew month of Av, the anniversary of passing of the Rebbe’s father, who died in 1944 and was chief rabbi of Yekaterinoslav – currently the Ukraine city of Denepropetrovsk – before his arrest, imprisonment and finally exile at the hands of Stalinist authorities. He passed away in Alma Ata, Kazakhstan, the victim of brutal treatment for refusing to back down from his dedication to teaching Torah to Russia’s Jews.
“He was admired among Jews and non-Jews alike,” said Ukraine-born Rabbi Lipa Shapiro, 96, considered to be the last living person to have known the Rebbe’s father before his imprisonment.
I remember that when Rabbi Levi Yitzchak walked in the street, non-Jews used to stop and look at the tall and handsome figure,” Shapiro told the conference. But when the Rebbe, who never saw his father after his arrest, saw a picture of him in exile, lacking his former vitality and basic features, he wrote on the back, “My father?”
In further remembrance of the Rebbe’s father, the summit capped off its schedule with the granting of the Pras Levi Yitzchak prize to 10 top-notch yeshiva students from 10 different institutions in the United States, Argentina, Israel and Europe. Shemtov saw in the award the recognition that although many educators might choose to focus on troublesome trends in education, “we thought it was appropriate to put the spotlight on those who excel in their learning.”