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IN LOVING MEMORY OF MY BAR MITZVAH TEACHER, REB HERSHKE RASKIN

Sunday, 6 September, 2020 - 12:37 pm

9C471D0F-F500-4090-A115-BEAD6D837FDF.jpegYesterday Reb Yehoshua (Hershke) Raskin of London, England returned his soul to his creator at the age of 97 years old. His passing left me with many emotions and thoughts as a piece of my childhood moved on to heaven.
When I was turning 13 and terrified to have to publicly read my Haftorah in the large Chabad Synagogue in London, he lovingly coached me and taught me the meaning, the cantillation marks and how to read it properly.
As a young 12 year old boy, he seemed very old to me, although at the time he was just 68 years old. Each week I would come to his house and he would teach me how to read, why it is important, and inspire me with confidence to be able to do it.
To this day I can hear his voice ringing in my ears as he taught me the exact melody for each word. As I read my Bar Mitzvah Haftorah each year, I can hear him again, reminding me of how to do it and what the nuances should be with the expression of each word.

Besides teaching me the Haftorah, he was an inspiring individual on so many levels. He was the head Shochet in London for so many years, a learned man, who would sit and listen to others teach like a young student, and someone whose passion and love for Judaism and Chassidic teachings was so obvious in the way he lived and breathed each day.

Apples don't fall far from the trees, and his love and commitment to Judaism was learned from his father who was executed in 1937 for spreading Judaism in the USSR, and from his mother who was known as Mume Sara, who personally helped hundreds of fellow Jews escape the USSR, until she was captured and died in captivity. Growing up in London, Reb "Hershke" as he was known and his brother Reb Moshe, were two humble giants, who were a part of our beautiful community, who by virtue of how they lived with such conviction and truth, conveyed so much to all of us, the English bred youth.

Lastly, even in his last years, he would attend Synagogue every day, study and continue to persevere. My mother would always tell me, how one of the highlights of Yom Kippur in Lubavitch in London even in these last few years, was watching Reb Hersheke sing and clap so joyously at the closing prayer of Yom Kippur, as Chabad Chassidim rejoice and sing the song which is known as Napoleons March. Watching a man in his mid 90's continue to have such zeal and passion was worth all the inspiration and wait of the 25 hours of the fast of Yom Kippur.

The Haftorah that he taught me was the story of Joshua sending two spies to the Land of Israel, and it was about bravery, trust in G-d and a determination to what is right. G-d willing I will continue reading this Haftorah each year and as I do so I will think of my teacher, Reb Hershke, and how in truth the Haftorah really stood for so much of what he himself was about.

Yehi Zichro Baruch! May his memory be a blessing and an inspiration to his family and many descendants and students!

Leilui Nishmas ר' יהושע בן מיכאל ע"ה

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