How Train Cars Filled with Matzah Made it to the Soviet Union in 1929

April 15 2019

In 1929, Stalin’s efforts to collectivize agriculture were in full swing, and the Soviet Union suffered some of the severest famines and grain shortages of its history. These economic conditions, combined with the Bolsheviks’ repression of religion, made it doubly difficult for Jews to obtain matzah for Passover. Having fled the USSR the previous year, and thus well aware of the circumstances there, Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, rebbe of the Lubavitch Ḥasidim, enlisted a number of prominent rabbis and communal leaders in a plan to send matzah to Soviet Jews. Dovid Margolin tells of their efforts:

On the morning of March 6, 1929, [the German rabbi Meir] Hildesheimer met with the Soviet ambassador to Berlin, Nikolai Krestinsky, with the latter saying that the Soviet government had officially granted permission for 50 train cars of matzah to be imported to the Soviet Union. . . . [After weeks of further negotiations], the Soviet trade representative telephoned [the Latvian Jewish leader Mordechai] Dubin and told him that he had made a mistake, and if the wagons had not yet been sent to please hold off, as he was awaiting special instructions from Moscow. Dubin . . . refused to back down. . . . Three hours later the Soviet official [allowed] the first five wagons to proceed to their destinations.

In Riga, [where the matzah was baked and then shipped to the USSR], another five wagons were prepared immediately, but then came news from Berlin. The Soviets [would still allow] for 50 train-cars of matzah, but there was a catch: [the exporters] would need to pay the luxury duty of two rubles per kilogram. Each wagon could hold approximately 5,000 kilograms of matzah—250,000 kilograms all together. This brought the sum needed to approximately $130,000 in taxes alone, the equivalent of nearly $2 million in 2019.

Yet, after further negotiation and much last-minute fundraising, 28 of the 50 the train-cars made their way to the intended recipients.


More about: Chabad, Matzah, Passover, Soviet Jewry, USSR


American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy