Monday, 5 Tammuz, is the 37th yahrzeit of Rabbi Benzion Shemtov, OBM. The Jewish Tribune, based in Stamford Hill, London, featured vintage photographs and a short biography of Rabbi Shemtov’s life in a full page spread in its ‘faces from the past’ section.
Born in 1902, Rabbi Benzion “Reb Bentche” Shemtov learned in his youth in the Tomchei Temimim yeshivah in the town of Lubavitch. When the Russian Revolution brought the anti-religious Communists to power, Rabbi Shemtov was one of the minyan of young Chasidim chosen by the Lubavitcher Rebbe to “make a covenant…not to be deterred in the establishing and maintenance of yeshivos and Talmud Torahs”.
For his efforts for Yiddishkeit the authorities imprisoned him in Siberia, where his feet became permanently injured. He became engaged shortly before his imprisonment, but his marriage could not take place for another four years. After his release from prison he continued to work for Yiddishkeit with great mesiras nefesh and in 1947 he left Russia, arriving ﬁnally in London. Here he established Talmud Torahs in the East End and in Hackney, and he was instrumental in the development of the Lubavitch educational institutions in England.
He traveled extensively on behalf of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, to spread and support Torah in North and South America and in Eretz Yisroel. In 1975 he went to Kfar Chabad to set up a printing and book-binding cooperative for Russian immigrants. While he was there his life was brought tragically to an end when he was run over by a car.
One of Rabbi Shemtov’s sons-in-law, Rav Nachman Sudak, is the principal of the Lubavitch Foundation of Great Britain.