The miracle of love

A homage to the Rebbe, and a tribute to Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky and the restoration of Jewish life in Dnepr.

Rachel and David Shapiro with their daughter, Chaya Mushka, and newborn son Menachem Mendel in Moscow, in June (photo credit: THE ROGATCHI FOUNDATION)
Rachel and David Shapiro with their daughter, Chaya Mushka, and newborn son Menachem Mendel in Moscow, in June
FOR MANY years, my husband Michael and I have supported the Jewish community in Dnepr, Ukraine (also known as Dnepropetrovsk and previously as Yekaterinoslav). It has been the natural thing for both of us to do in memory of both our families from the area, and to keep the bond alive.
We thank the Creator and so very often think about the providence which made the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, send a young couple, Rabbi Shmuel and Channa Kaminetsky, back in 1991 to the place of his childhood and youth, the place where his father had been chief rabbi for about four decades, the place which had been so vital for the Rebbe himself, to restore Jewish life there.
We don’t know what could have happened to Jewish life in Dnepr if Rabbi Kaminetsky would not have been dispatched there. But the Rebbe clearly knew he should be sent to the place where his heart belonged during his entire life. The Dnepr Jewish community is now thriving again, numbering over 60,000. In 2012, a large Jewish cultural and business center named Menorah opened in Dnepr.
In our modest but consistent support of the community, the role of our dear friend, Rabbi Kaminetsky, cannot be overstated. The brilliant and incredible rabbi is both the heart of the community and the magnet for everyone from outside, who is interested in the revival of Jewish life in the big city and large community that were once home to the Schneerson family.
We supported everything Rabbi Shmuel, his wife and great team nourished for over 25 years. We were so happy to donate a library to the Home for the Aged in memory of our parents; to buy necessary physiotherapy and exercise equipment for them; to decorate the house’s premises with a full collection of my artistic works showing romantic Jewish places from Israel and across the world.
We are also very glad to support the Jewish school in Dnepr for many years, by launching special stipends in memory of our daughter for the best pupils there, both boys and girls, stimulating them to study more vigorously and introducing them to the world of art and knowledge. Our daughter and only child, Julia Yenike, contracted cancer as the result of the Chernobyl catastrophe, and she is buried in Finland, where we now live.
Michael Rogatchi’s triptych “Faces of the Holocaust,” after being exhibited for a good while at the museum in the Menorah Center, found its home at a very special place for every Jew who feels a connection to Dnepr and the Schneerson family – Rabbi Yizhak Levi’s synagogue, which now serves as the home of the orphanage. We love the fact that this famous work of art is on display at such a special place, in memory of Michael’s family.
Of all that we do for the Dnepr Jewish community, our special projects in support of the Jewish orphans are the most dear to us. We have established a fund for Jewish orphaned boys and girls, in memory of our daughter. We love to help them in every way we can: clothing, art, books, musical instruments, to make their lives warmer, personalized, taken care of – both while they are living in the homes for boys and girls, and after that, too. We are enormously grateful to the great couple, Rabbi Yossi and Rebbetzin Sarah Glick, for their extraordinary work of caring for those children. They are truly rare people, strong and incredibly devoted. The love generated by them both towards the children never fades.
SEVERAL YEARS ago, a miracle was born. I use this description because this miracle had been developing over the years. Five years ago, the two most brilliant students of the Dnepr Jewish school, a boy and a girl, were awarded the Yenike Stipends by our foundation. The girl, an orphan, was accepted to the leading high school for girls in Jerusalem, which she attended with the help of The Rogatchi Foundation and a special stipend for continuing her studies. The boy went to the Lauder Business School in Vienna. In a year, Rachel and David reunited in Vienna, where Rachel was continuing her education, again with the help of the special stipend; and soon we all learned that the young couple was engaged, with the wedding date planned in due course.
“But how? How did this happen? How did you meet?” people asked the young couple.
“We saw each other at Inna and Michael’s Yenike Stipend ceremony for the first time and it was love at first sight,” they answered.
“Now, they are your children,” a happy Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky told us, but we knew it already.
Their first daughter, the beautiful Chaya Mushka, known to us all as Chayechka, was born in Vienna two and a half years ago. After graduating from the Lauder School, Rachel and David Shapiro did not waste time in moving to Israel, where they settled in Rehovot, all becoming Israeli citizens, and we were so very happy for the young family, still supporting them, as we always will.
In May 2017, five years after their first meeting, now as a family with a beautiful child, our adopted David and Rachel Shapiro went back to Russia as young shlichim (emissaries) to work at the Moscow Jewish Community Center’s dynamic Youth Department. In mid-June 2017, a boy was born to the young Shapiro family, a lovely child who was aptly named Menachem Mendel.
Michael and I cannot stop thanking the Creator for helping this beautiful, talented, very able, good and kind young couple, their small daughter named after the Rebbe’s wife and newborn son named after the Rebbe himself, to live their life not only in the way they aspire, but so very importantly, in the way conceived by the Rebbe to bring the Jewish spirit back to life everywhere their shlichut (mission) sends them. We know that they will be wonderful shlichim, full of talent and kindness, and we are so happy that Jewish life will strengthen and blossom through their energetic efforts.
The fact that David and Rachel Shapiro are from the Rebbe’s home city, Dnepr, fills us with special joy to see the fruit of his thoughts and ideas blossoming in such a pure way. That we were able to do something to help these young Jewish people and start their family was especially meaningful, because we too come from the same city of the Rebbe and his family, and being connected to the Schneerson family via our family generations back makes us just unboundedly grateful. And we believe that the Rebbe’s soul is smiling on this miracle of love.
Inna Rogatchi is a writer, scholar, filmmaker, philanthropist and president of The Rogatchi Foundation.