The letters of our thoughts are the ideas present in our mind before they come to realization . . . Thoughts that are, yet not felt . . . The words of the subconscious . . . of the soul . . .


Monday, August 11, 2008


I was planning on making at least two or three more Petersburg posts . . . but then again I was also planning on spending two or three more days in Petersburg.
Those of you who have been wisely following me on Twitter are in the know as to where I am these days -in order to prepare for camp I've spent the weekend in Vilna . . .
In any event, since during the week of camp I'll most likely be on a blog break (always recommended) I didn't want to push off my various 
Petersburg experiences, photos and what not -lest they be forgotten.
So in short click on the link and enjoy the show!

A walk around town:

On a recent Heveil Havalim it was asked if I went off the beaten path . . . My dear readers should know by now, I'm almost never on the beaten path.   

Coming Full Circle:

On one of my last days in town a Jew from the states came to visit the shul. Reaching into his pocket, he emotionally produced a folded piece of paper. Slowly unfolding it, he showed me several photos of the Grand Choral Synagogue -taken back in 1964!

Jeremy, as that was his name, had been a merchant seaman in his youth, and his travels had taken him to Leningrad in the height of the Soviet reign (jokingly he said -This is a city that I have been to three times [when it was known as Leningrad] yet never been before [as it is now known as S. Petersburg]).
During his lay over in the city he managed to find a guide who would take him to the shul.
  "When I came," he said "They were confused as to why an American boy not more then nineteen years of age would want to come to an old place of worship. I told them that I was a Jew, and I wanted to be by a place that belongs to my people -to show them that we would always be there and be strong. When I got to the shul, and saw the disrepair it was in at the time . . . I broke down crying."

We walked around the shul, then went to the balcony level in order to have a better look at its grand design . . .
Standing up there, a few Jewish souls basking in the warmth and comfort of a beautifully restored place of worship, Jeremy began to sob. Like the tears he had shed Forty four years before, these ones came pouring fourth in thick drops, slowly wetting his hands.
Unlike the tears of the past, however, these tears were ones for the future.
  "I never thought I would see this day." He said at last. "I never dreamed that I would be walking in what had been a synagogue in such great disrepair in the heart of the Soviet Union . . . to now have it glistening and glowing with new Jewish life."

We then continued to the third floor of the building, the home of the geniza -the place of storage for the various prayer books, tomes, and torah scrolls that had aged beyond normal use. Opening a volume of the Talmud, leather bound and yellowed with age, Jeremy gasped.

"Is that a Vilna Shas?" he asked. "One printed by the Widow and Brother's Romm printing press?"

It indeed was, having been brought in this world in the Jerusalem of Lithuania in 1880, and somehow through the ages made its way to S. Petersburg. Though rare today, the existence of such old volumes -now used as the definitive layout of the Talmud- are not unheard of.

The stairs to the Geniza

  "You don't understand." He said at last. "My mother was a Romm! That book was printed by my ancestors!"

Putting on Tefillin with Jeremy

My Last Night:

My last night in the town, I went out with Shmuli to see a bit more of the town.

The Frierdiker Rebbe's home in the 1920's

A pack of Dogs on the street -there wer at least five or six of them

Taking our pictures with the
Chre"p -Cheap Russian Piwo

Sitting on a Lada and saying goodbye to the city.

The next day, I was off to Vilnius, via Riga . . . to get ready for camp.
Catch you all on the flip side!

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yehoshua613 said...

The first pic of this post and stairs to gniza rock! I really like them

The Shul is phenomenal

Leora said...

Thanks again for all the photos of St. Pete/Leningrad. I try to imagine my mother as a little girl in that setting.

Jeremy's story was very moving. Thanks for sharing.

Mottel said...

Thanks Y613 and Leora . . . I hope continue putting up great photos on this blog.

Nemo said...

Poka Petersburg??

Sorry, my Russian ain't too good ...

chaviva said...

Thanks for the photos. Someday perhaps I'll make my way that way on my world travels :) At least I know what to look for now!

And nice to see some photos of you, as well!

Mottel said...

Paka means good bye.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Mottel - the question asked wasn't personal - just to hint to the readers that the beautiful sights are only a small part of what St. Petersburg has to offer. At that it ain't always that nice. Quite the opposite, in fact.