From Days Gone By: Lubavitch Girls in the USSR

A group of Lubavitch girls living under the Stalin regime in the Soviet Union pose for a photograph, circa late 1930s. Can you identify anyone in the photo?

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  • Anonymous

    Girl on left is Mrs. Sima Itkan nee Raskin.
    Next to her Mrs Sarah Wolosow nee Karasik

  • tznius

    Just wondering what to make of the short exposed elbows, is this acceptable? i’m wondering if this is where today’s modern Lubavitch lite get it from.

  • Times

    This photo is refreshing because of the standards of tznius that it illustrates. It will give the people in our neighborhood something to think about.

  • anonymous

    center girl:sora gopin
    sitting-in the center;fraida raskin.
    second from right:sara rappaport.
    standing on right:tzivya raskin

  • Show Respect

    Please refer to adult females as Lubavitch Women.
    Show some respect.
    We don’t refer to adult males as boys!?

    • Agreed

      I agree with you, but adult males and females are frequently called boys and girls until they get married. That’s just the way it is, and it’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

  • Anonymous

    They obviously aren’t real lubavitchers. They must’ve been chabad lite.

    • CV"S

      Be careful what you say!
      They were living in very difficult times. Many of the frumest yidden alive today had no choice but to eat treif or starve to death; work and send their children to school on shabbos, or have them “re-educated” by the Russian communist Y”S.
      They had to blend in with society – secret Jews if you will. (Remember the underground yeshivot, and how many of those teachers were murdered??)
      These are people who lived with the gas chambers and the gulag R”L!
      Don’t call them Chabad lite or not frum.
      In a life and death situation, the Torah tells us CHOOSE LIFE.
      Today’s “lite” (aka living in darkness) do not face any of the life and death challenges of the older, tortured generation.
      THERE IS NO COMPARISON, and don’t think you’ll get away using this photo as an excuse for your deviant behavior.
      Am Yisroel Chai, but only the frum can hope to have Jewish grand- and great-grandchildren. Think about what you are doing, and the Torah heritage you are denying your children. May HaShem grant you the wisdom to move out of the darkness you have fallen in to, and to embrace the Torah of LIGHT.

  • CH'er

    no I cant, but for sure, they all look scared / petrified of something, ?

    • CV"S

      pls see my response to #9.
      They were living in very dark and dangerous times.

  • Gezeh

    3rd from right is Sarah Relkah Gopin (nee Shapiro) matriarch of the Chashuveh Gopin family

  • mg

    L-R Sima (raskin) Itkin-, mrs langsam (maiden name shusterman), Sara Shapiro Gopin, ?, ?, tzivia Goldberg (katzenelenbogen)

  • Not impressed (yet again!)

    Short sleeves and low necklines…!!!
    It seems that Tznius has never been a priority

    • wrong

      who gives you the right to judge and make such comments you owe them an apology for your insensitive comment.

    • Ok

      Who’s trying to impress you? It’s not shameful, and more likely than not, your standards of tznius are unreasonable.

  • Beautiful picture of nice Ladies

    To. All of you that see the elbow only – don’t be ignorant ,, to be Jew in 1930 in Soviet Russia is to be a potential prisoner of Gulag /Siberia and to be an observant Jew is to a prisoner for sure or to be dead ….

  • no smiles

    These women were no”chabad lite”
    This picture must be late 1930’s.they lived in constant immense fear and for good reason.some of their fathers were shot for being “schneersonskis” raskon,katzenelenbogen rapaporrt herself sat a few years,some family members died of starvation.these girls were in leningrad.
    No,my dear friends,these were NOT chabad lite,these were the real stuff.mesirus nefesh b’poiel mamosh with no limits.

  • Not impressed (yet again!)

    Still no excuse for not keeping basic laws of Tzinus.. They may have been moiser Nefesh for Yiddishkeit but evidently were not makpid on basic Halachos of Tzinus, Outside Chabad this is total anathama and the fact people support it and make excuses only makes matters worse

    • SoCal shliach

      I have no idea who u are. And to what group you belong to.
      Your manner of commenting suggests you come from outside Lubavitch.
      I suggest therefore that you research true and authentic pictures of most if not all litvishe, yelkke, Hungarian , Rumanian, American and Israeli (albeit not yerushalmi) orthodox REBBETZINS and wives of roshei yeshivos, not to mention Stam women of those communities, And you will that these pure young women were of a much higher standard.
      You have no idea and no concept of what standards were and how frum women dressed pre and post war
      This is part of the white washing of art scroll type history where every rov and rosh yeshiva had a beard and every rebbetzin covered her hair and arms. ( forget elbows) and every yeshiva dinner of the 40’s and 50’s showed all this.
      BTW. These young women were for the most part orphans and widows of special chassidim who were sent to Siberia.
      I knew some of them later I doubt you or anyone you grew up with came to their ankles in dedication to true Torah and mitzvos.
      Look in your own daled Amos and criticize and rectify.

    • Great Dane

      This was the norm then. Tznius is much more to do with a mindset than the exact length of a sleeve.

      In those days, the world was much more modest. Nowadays, the world has decided to expose itself and hence sleeve length became more important.

  • To #2 and #8

    How dare you who know nothing about the real Lubavitch, then and now, criticize these women. They went on mesirusme nefesh to stay frum. They had friends who died of hunger not to eat treif. They dresses in any rags they could find. You who dress like “proste” street women, please leave Lubavitch. The chillul hashem and chillul Lubavitch that you create is not worth you being here in. Lubavitch. Move away and live your life as you wish but keep away from our family especially from our young impressionable children. Go away!

  • No smiles

    I, with my covered elbows and neckline, would wish to achieve in my life a tiny fragment of the mesiras nefesh and kiddush Hashem these women achieved in their lifetimes!! I would wish to raise chashuveh doros as they did!! May Hashem give me and all of us the kochos to overcome our own personal nisyonos, and the nisyonos of the generation, with flying colors the way these women did!

    • outside chabad?

      Where are the frum Russians (that lived in Russia at that time) that age outside chabad?

  • Anonymous

    גברת גופין (אמא של ראש הישיבה בכפר חב”ד) ופריידא מסקאליק (רסקין)

  • no smiles

    These young women are the epitome of kaboloas old,they had no,or very limited Jewish education
    With a hired melamed ,to learn basics.and their actual mesirus nefesh for all and any dovor shebikdusho was as strong as could ever be.they risked their lives so that there could be a chassidishe farbrengen in the house, they hid chassidim wanted by KGB in their tiny living quarters at the risk of their lives.shabbos kasrus tahars hamishpocho,with mesirus nefesh bpoiel mamosh.
    To question their sleeve length is laughable. It shows tremendous ignorance on the part of the questioner.THESE WOMEN EPITOMIZE MESIRUS NEFESH!!!

  • shameful and disgusted

    shameful to one who wrote this picture is shameful and shameful to one who wrote these r not real Lubavitchers…I dont know who u are (and I hope I dont know you…Shameful is your comment As I said I dont know who wrote these 2 shameful comments but just from your comment I know that you are not worthy to walk the same earth that these woman… You have alot to learn….But if you are a Lubavitcher … You are a disgrace to the name Lubavitch These woman were the true Aishes Chayil of our genertion Shame on you

  • no smiles

    I think it would be beneficial if our young women of lubavitxh today would be introduced to these women and their mehus as chassodishe women.these are the mothers grandmothers and great grandmother’s of many lubavitcher chassidishe families.I for one would not be a lubavitch woman if not for them
    Pur girls do projects on women from their would be wonderful if some talented person would write about the mesirus nefesh of these totally unassuming women,who didn’t even know EVER that they lived a life and standard that o don’t know if I would be able to do,even with being more educated and supposed ly knowledgeable.
    Torah and chassidus was their life and NOTHING stopped them.if their father was shot ,they continued .if Sara rapaportvand her husband sat inprison they came out and raised their son to be chossid at literal risk of their lives.
    These women didn’t question. They were bright intelligent even wordly,but mesirus nefesh for torah and chassidus was beyond question. They never bent loi koireh vlo mishtachave.
    Bais rivka really should talk about these women,their nisyonos and how they went on so that we could be chassidishe doiros.
    THESR WOMEN ARE THE HEROES OF LUBAViych,the insunh heroes

  • about tznius

    The halacha in shulchan aruch says that showing arms is not tzniusdik only when doing so in public. and the Rema adds that this is only if she does so in public on a regular basis not a one off situation. These girls were in an all girls situation so they were not transgressing any halacha of tznius.
    Just fyi the next halacha in shulchan aruch is that a woman cannot flirt with men. How many of those concerned about tznius above are careful not to talk unnecessary words with men, other than their husbands, sons fathers and brothers?

    • if i also may add...

      Unnecessary FEELINGS… i was shocked and it’s becoming “normal” as i’ll walk into a store to buy s/t and a frum man will give me hard time if i don’t express my feelings. bottom line – i left the store but women may NOT respond. feelings are only for YOUR HUSBAND- no one else! may Hashem give us the koach to fight all these kelipos to continuing transforming darkness into light!

  • Not impressed (yet again!)

    To be Moiser Nefesh for Yiddishkeit and not Moiser Nefesh for every detail in Halocho is a contradiction in terms! There needs to be a complete overhaul of this warped perception that Halocho is second rate… The Rabonnim in CH will tell you the same of you ask them in a private conversation..No emotion or nostalgic feeling can change the undeniable facts… This picture as well as many others show an unacceptable laxity in hilchos Tzinus and thew quicker it is recognized by all Lubavitchers who should know better, the better it will be for the whole of Anash…We are not impervious or beyond critiscm

  • Shame on you

    Whoever wrote these stupid comments knocking these woman who had mesirusme nefesh to an extent that you in your ignorance and imaturaty can not even understand. At that time you would have ended uo marrying a goy. So stop before your true colors show up. I don’t know you but hope non of my children ever get friends with your children because chas vsholom they should marry into your family.
    Please all of you stick together and away from my family. These women are known to me and we don’t want to know you.

  • hurting

    the only reason we r here is because of the msiras nefesh these woman lived every second of their life..I want to cry when I read the horrible comments about the tznius..U are ignorant and you are stupid..You are apparently the reason Moshiach is not yet here Sinaas chinum sprouting from your ignorant heart…may i never have to associate with the likes of you

  • If you see something you're not supposed to..

    Dear people,

    If you see something forbidden it’s because you looked where you are not supposed to. If seeing an uncovered elbow is wrong, it’s because YOU looked at an uncovered elbow.

    Stop imposing your religious guilt on other people. Worry about being a better person yourself.

  • not true lubavitchers???

    these women are the true lubavitchers…Lubavitch is still here and if you are lubavitch that is why you are lhere. You with your ignorant spiteful comments is holding up Moshiach…Please leave

  • כישלון

    Can you identify anyone in the photo?

    I guess folks would rather talk about tznuis than answer the question.

  • not my place to say....

    okay first of all, look at u. if by accident ur elbow is exposed, does it suddenly make u a not true lubavitcher? thats ridiculous. quiet and stop judging.

    and maybe standards were different then.

  • Standards

    Perhaps this is the standard of tznius they held by. It is not much different from many of the families today. Is it a halachic dress code? This is another question.

  • chaya

    Third from left, is My great aunt Sara Gopin( nee Schapiro) ,My grandfather Reb Lipe Schapiros’ sister.

  • 48 yr in the hood,

    to post # 2 and # 16
    shame on you to talk and comment on people who gave there life to be a yid .
    and beside do not talk on people who are not here on this world . they cant defend them self’s
    a little respect .
    watch who will be judging you after you pass on

  • to number 33 not impressed (yet again)

    I have some good advice for you. Get to know Rabbi Aron Teitelbaum Shlita of Kiryas Yoel. It seems that you and him have some things in common and you will get along with each other very well.

  • michael to # 33 and likes

    I read the comments and I’m not russian nor from Gezha i’m a real yankee! and wasn’t born yesterday, but # 33 is a total ignoramus (also in halocho) to be kind and put it politely, all comments towards you are 100 percent correct # 33 doesn’t get it and is totally off the wall! B’h for all their mesiras nefesh!

  • How about....

    How about we ask one of these women, or their mispacha, what the situation was about women’s dresses and tzinus back then. How easy it seems to be for some people to jump at the first thing they see, without tempering their reaction with curiosity or a simple question. Can we find out the answer first? When I read an explanation, I’ll know the situation. I might not like what I see right now, I might exercise a knee-jerk reaction to the seeming lack of tzinus. And then I may wait a minute and hear another side.

  • What about the hair?

    It looks to me that not all, if any, have covered their own hair. What were the practices there during that difficult time under Stalin? I’d like to know…………. By the way, I can think of more than one Lubavitche woman who might cover their elbows and hair every day, and at the same time hardly can be called true representatives of Chabad. It would be nice to have both tzinus and behavior in a neat package, but if I see only one, I choose behavior. And by behavior, I mean compassion, loving acts, fairness, honesty, sensitivity, thirst for learning, capacity to listen, etc.

  • The new lubavitch

    Anyone familiar with lubavitch in Russia knows that this isn’t a one off incident, in fact it was quite common and this is just one example. Their priorities were very different. It wasn’t about how many inches long the garment is. The focus was on the ruach of chassidus and mesirus nefesh. Maybe something to learn from…



  • Each generation has own nisyonos

    while criticizing these holy women for their exposed elbows is beyond ridiculous, it is equally ridiculous to use this picture to be moreh heter for all the pritzas gvul that you see on a daily basis on Kingston avenue. If you truly want to emulate these righteous women, then try being a true chassidiste and listen to the Rebbe! Did the Rebbe ever justify and rationalize lack of tznius based on how our grandmothers dressed? Can you compare how people dressed when they literally had no money to buy clothes, and decent clothing was almost impossible to obtain, to today when you can buy anything you want? And I’d like to see pictures of these women in the later years after the war when they were more settled and were able to buy decent clothes. Actually I think they were dressed very modestly considering the times and circumstances.

  • zelig

    you are all missing a very simple point. the reason most lubavitch women cover their elbows is because the rebbe clearly wrote in a letter that in his opinion it is required al pi halacha. This picture was taken way before that letter. you could be sure that if there was such a letter at the time this picture was taken all the women in this picture would be dressed accordingly.

  • Not impressed (yet again!)

    Everyone knows that (many) Chabad and Mizrachi women are not Makpid on basic Tzinus? Take a look at other chassidim and Litvishes and see the difference…

  • standards

    Standards vary depending on the community and what was acceptable at the time/era and according to their community situation/laws.Did you live in those times?I love it-now you sit comfortably, shopping with your latest cell phones and cars and then you dare criticize these women who were trying to survive???!!I would not have the chutzpah to comment the way people do here.Do you even know what women in Israel have to go through every day not knowing when a missile will hit?oh but Im sure you’d be looking at where their sleeves are.Something is very wrong with you people.

  • Gezha jumping out of their skin

    Two separate issues: mesiras nefesh which we cannot fathom. B”H we are challenged with mesiras harotzon and not the “look the malach hamoves daily in the eye” style.
    Secondly: the tznius issue. A dress with a longer sleeve was not an option for millionaires daughters only. There were bavuste Chassidim who were makpid with their daughters to the kutzo shel yud in tznius matters, and they relate about it in their memoirs.
    Why were some not stringent? Ask them. Simple as that. There are still some women with us tzu lange yohren. Dig deeper and let us know. Do you think Mariasha wasn’t makpid on halocho (and she was dirt poor). Read her life story.

  • Food for Thought


    The well-known mashpia, Reb Zalman Moshe Hayitzchaki, alav hashalom, came to the Rebbe Rayatz nishmas eden a short time after his wedding and complained that his wife does not cover her hair appropriately, as it is still possible to see hairs on the sides of her tichel, and therefore he wanted to divorce her. The Rebbe Rayatz responded: When you will increase in matters of yiras shomayim this issue will also be resolved.

    And so it was. The veteran residents of Kfar Chabad remember her for her exalted tsnius, that no hair could be seen from her tichel.

    (מפי הרב ישכר דוד קלויזנר שי’ ששמע מפי חמותו ע”ה, בתו של הרב החסיד הנודע ר’ יעקב זכרי’ הלוי מסקליק (ר’ יענקל ז’ורביצ’ר הי”ד”)), Hatznea Leches p.103

    Seems to me today’s yungeleit are afraid to broach the delicate subjects with their wives, and we the oddest looking couples: he very Chassidish and I will omit the rest of the sentence.

    • Dovid S. -Monsey

      You don’t have to go ma’asos to make the point. Concerning the “minhag” That some hairs stick out from under the tichel in front of the ears, The Tzemach Tzedek writes in a tshuva (E”H 135? – VaT”Y) That concerning this we say Minhag are the same letters as Gehenom. (It works in Hebrew)

  • Dovid S. -Monsey

    To understand those that attack Lubavitch here, a little introduction is necessary. The comments attacking Lubavitch are most likely from modern orthodox posters. A yesod of Modern orthodoxy is to look down at, and attack the ultra orthodox and specifically chasidim whenever possible in order to make the MO look and feel better about themselves. I’ll give you a shining example. Dr Moshe Dovid Tendler, one of the Deans and Roshei Yeshiva of Yeshiva University has a series of lectures on the YUTORAH.ORG website. You would be hard pressed to find one that does not have some snide, condescending, and often untruthful, remarks about chasidim. In his Geirus series he tells the story of a giyorus that had a rabbi in Crown Heights find her a Lubavitcher shidduch. “It was the closest she could find to someone of the Jewish religion” quips Tendler (class laughs). In another lecture on milah he rants about chasidim because…, they follow shulchan Aruch. Says tendler “And the chasidim are makpid davka to do priah bitziporen and that’s the most painful part to the baby because there you’re ripping the skin, and that is not a nice thing to do to a fellow human being.” And of course none of students dare ask “Oh Rebbe? Doing Milah as it says in Shulchan Aruch and Rambam is not a nice thing to do to a fellow human being? An even more heinous example is Tendler’s interview for the book: Boychiks in the hood (Harper Collins 1995) p.201-205. Tendler explains to the author, that the Lubavitcher Chasidim in the Communist Soviet Union “..kept their coats, their hats, their tzitzis. They drank only cholov yisroel milk and bake their own bread. Can you imagine doing that for several generations?And you why they survived? Because people thought they were crazy. Stalin didn’t bother with them. He ignored them.” Thats what Tendler has to say about Lubavitch. A few years ago Kfar Chabad Magazine did a story on R’ Nosson Kook HY”D. He was a Lubavitcher Chosid that recieved a bullet to the head in 1938 courtesy of Stalin because he had a shul in his house. He is one of many. His daughter was 6 or 7 at the time. She didn’t give up. She married a Breslover chasid after the war and Her children and granchildren are all Breslover chasidim in Monsey, Boro Park and Eretz Yisroel. The sefer Toldos Chabad biRusia Hasovietes list many more name that end in HY”D. That is not counting the many chassidim that were imprisoned, tortured, beaten and exiled like the Previous Rebbe, the Rebbe’s father and R’ Mendel Futerfas. Is it possible that Tendler, who wrote in Igeres Moshe vol 7 (and translated into English, against R’ Moshe’s will in Tendler’s English responsa sefer.) about what a hard time the communist gave his shver, R’ Moshe Feinstein ZT’L, didn’t know that the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe was beaten and crippled in Soviet prison? Does he believe the communist knew the difference between Chassidim and Litvaks and only persecuted Litvaks? Tendler’s has been teaching these lies for 50 years. In closing, I address the great tzaddikim that have been dictating the “correct” laws of tznius here, it seems you have forgotton a clear mishnah (Challah- 1:3) ” A woman may sit and seperate challah while naked …” “and make a bracha” (-R”av and Ramba”m) Is the Mishnah advocating a naked lifestyle in violation of the laws of tznius, or perhaps women are required to dress differently in front of men then when they’re among themselves? Whoever you are, I’m sure your American born grandparents don’t reach these woman’s toenails in Torah, chesed, and mesiras nefesh

  • Dovid S. -Monsey

    Additional note. I believe that Sima Raskin was the daughter of Sara Raskin who was widowed at the age 47 When the KGB stopped by to pick up her husband, never to be seen again. Another one the people that was “ignored by Stalin” according to Tendler.

  • my mother

    my mother told me she owned one skirt for days on end. she used to wear the front in the back often to change around…
    then her friend was getting married , she was so embarrassed and was so in need of a new outfit etc. and that is a separate story.-u get the point
    b’kitzur these ladies were much more frum /sincere and yes tznius then we are today even if we cover our elbows.- no comparison

  • Stop already

    These were great women. They are all gezha and you who don’t even know what tht means stop. Stick with your petty ideas and criticism as this seems to make you feel better. It only makes you into a smaller person. You wish you were gezha. Sorry you are not and will never be so accept it and be a good Jew with ahavas Yisroel without jealousy. We will respect you more for. Being the best that you can be. Try it.

    • Hate to break it to you, but

      the world isn’t dying to get into your little club. Get over yourself.