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West East North and South | Oro shel yoseph > Commemoration > Yossie, My Best Friend 22

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Asmall notebook with a few pages, filled with all different kinds of stamps—this tells the story of Rabbi Yossie Raichik, without any words: His Passport.
As a teenager, Yossie burst through the borders of California and the U.S. in order to spread the wisdom of Chassidus, and in every single place he went, he left an indelible impression of joy, kindness and friendship that is cherished in the hearts of those who were privileged to know him. He was simply unforgettable.
Even when Yossie finally settled down with his family in Israel, his suitcases were not put in the closet, and his passport did not go into the drawer, because now all his tremendous energy was needed for another 'avodat kodesh', this time for the children of Chernobyl which took Yossie time and time again to airports throughout the world, to meet supporters and philanthropists. These supporters became friends of Yossie's and at simchos, as well as tragedies, Yossie made a superhuman effort to 'be there', a friend in times of happiness or tears; it did not matter where in the world or when, if humanly possible, Yossie was present.
Today we say it's a small world, especially at the turn of the 21st century with instant and real-time communication technology. However, for Yossie the world was always a small village, even 30 years ago, when he went back and forth in order to save every little lost Jewish spark. There is a well-known saying, "Everywhere in the world you can find two things: Coca Cola and Chabad' and here one could definitely add a third – people who remember Yossie Raichik's smile"!
 "The year was 5736 and we were both young kids in '770'," relates Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Gerlitzky, the chief Chabad emissary in Tel Aviv. "After Pesach, the Rebbe proclaimed that this year is the year of 'Education'. On hearing this, many Chassidim went all over the world to strengthen Jewish education amongst far-flung Jewish congregations, thereby fulfilling the Rebbe's proclamation. Yossie Raichik and I travelled to the Far East."
 "Today to write about what happened then, it could maybe fill a line, but at that time there was great enthusiasm and excitement for this presumably complicated campaign," recalls Rabbi Gerlitzky. "Rabbi Hadakov, the Rebbe's personal secretary, called us two boys and suggested that we travel to the Far East. He spoke to us on behalf of the Rebbe and on behalf of Rabbi Binyamin Gorodetzky and Rabbi Sholom Ber Hecht, the Rabbi of the Persian community in Queens."
 "On the 17th of Tammuz, at the end of the fast, we began our journey," he continues," we flew to California and from there to Hawaii and then we landed in Japan. Travelling from country to country, we stayed in each place a week and the entire trip took us about two months. By Erev Rosh Hashana 5737 we were back in 770."
He named all the places they visited: Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong, the Philippines, India, Iran and other places that Rabbi Gerlitzky has by now managed to forget. In each of these places there were approximately 50 to 200 Jewish families, living in the country temporarily while engaged in business. In those days Chabad houses were not as established or familiar as today and therefore two Chassidishe boys in their distinctive attire was quite a bizarre sight.
 "We notified the heads of the Jewish community of our arrival" and on inquiring how we intended to proceed, "we asked that all the Jewish people be invited to a local shul or hall where we could meet with them and impress upon them the importance of Jewish education, mitzvot, Torah learning, tefillin, etc. We arranged gatherings for their children, reciting with them the 12 pesukim, and encouraging them to be proud to be a Jew. Shabbat we sometimes walked over 1½ hours to their shul."
 "We also visited the staffs of the Israeli embassies and affixed mezuzot where necessary," he told us with a smile. "Once I left my passport in the rooms where we were staying and I knew that without it I would not be allowed to enter the government offices. However when we arrived I pulled from my pocket a picture of the Rebbe together with the President Shazar (of Israel), and the guards let me through without any problem!"
 "Yossie was an open-minded person with a big heart, and every place we went people immediately took a liking to him. His unique personality, his being able to understand and identify with others charmed everyone. Whether it was a Japanese, Iranian or Hong Kongian, there was not one person who was not captivated by his warmth, humor and sincerity. On the professional side Yossie was able to grasp immediately who was in charge and immediately made contact with him. An innate understanding of public service was in him from a young age."
Rabbi Gerlitzky remembered when they arrived in Tokyo. "Yossie contacted one of the friends of Rabbi Gurari of Buffalo who was a young student studying in Tokyo on a student exchange program between the U.S. and Japan. This student was Shabbat observant and ate only kosher food and invited us both to stay at his home, in a distant town called 'Haammatzu'. Before they started their journey Yossie suggested they should take with them tins of corn, just in case."
 "In general we had difficulties with food. We managed most of the time with rice cooked on an apparatus we carried with us. However, this time the train broke down and stopped in the middle of the journey and we, as well as all the other passengers were delayed. Every so often when the train director passed by we showed him the clock and tried to explain that Shabbat was closing in on us."
 "Realizing that by the time we reached our destination it would be the middle of the night; we left the train and looked for a small hotel. We found somewhere small and there we spent Shabbat. We were able to find a bottle of Drambuie for kiddush and we made meals of the corn – a spoon for Yossie – a spoon for me. During Shabbat we kept discussing the purpose of our spending Shabbat in such a place, for what reason had the hand of the Almighty brought us here; with not one single Jewish person around."
 "To this very day," he laughs, "I don't know the answer, I just remember that when we were ready to leave, we found out that we had to pay $350! The room cost only a few dollars, but the Drambuie that they charged per glass cost us plenty."
Rabbi Gerlitzky related that the Israeli Vice Ambassador in Japan was 'most enthusiastic over Yossie Raichik.' We met him again during our trip in the East and he approached Yossie asking him to put tefillin on with him. "I think they kept in contact with each other for many years after," he added.
 "A year ago I met Yossie at a wedding in Kfar Chabad and he said to me, 'Do you remember what happened today, the 20th of Av, 32 years ago?" Yossie reminisced.
"On that 20th Av we were in a Jewish home in Charbin, a town near Shanghai. Here we met a Jewish person who escaped from the Nazis in World War II. We spoke to him about the Great Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, the father of the Rebbe, whose Yortzeit fell on that day. To our great surprise, this man got quite excited and exclaimed 'I knew him!', and he went on to tell us of his childhood in the town of Yaktrinosalov and what he knew of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. This conversation, at this wedding, was the last time I spoke with Yossie."
A year after this trip to the Far East, Yossie's passport was once again stamped, and this time at the borders of Israel. In Shevat, 5737, Yossie joined a group of Bachurim who came to learn in the Yeshiva Toras Emes in Jerusalem.
After a year learning in Israel, Yossie returned to the U.S., this time to San Diego, California. Rabbi Yona Fradkin had just arrived as the permanent shaliach and Yossie came to assist him. Together with a friend they started their work in the local university, meeting a large number of Jewish students.
Cheryl Weiss' memory travels back thirty years to the time when she was a student at the university. She relates the circumstances of how she met the person responsible for her return to a life of Torah Judaism and mitzvot.
"The picture that I saw was unusual, to say the least," she remembers the first time she met Rabbi Raichik, "two young men with big beards, kippot and tzitzit stopping students in front of the SDSU campus library to ask if they were Jewish. At that time," she remembers, "it was more common to see signs stating 'Zionism is Fascism' than to see a student wearing even a Chai or a Magen David."
"In September of that year, I had just returned from my first trip to Israel. One afternoon, while rushing across campus I was stopped in my tracks by Yossie, who was, of course, one of those kippah-wearing, bearded young men. After a few lively discussions, he invited me to a Shabbat dinner at the campus Chabad house—an old, dingy former fraternity house that looks much the same today as it did then.
Later that week, as I walked past frat houses overflowing with students already reveling in Friday night beer worship, it seemed incongruent that I was actually about to enter a shul to pray. How did that happen?! This bearded guy, Yossie, made a night at shul sound like more fun than just about anything else.
"After Friday night services, about thirty students shared dinner together, and I must admit," she smiles, "that I truly enjoyed the Shabbat experience; not because of the food but because of Yossie who shared his contagious joy of Shabbat with us.
While singing at the top of his lungs (Cheryl remembers with a smile), making many rousing 'l'chaims', and finding out about each of us, Yossie made us each feel special and excited to experience Shabbat with him. As a result, we also felt more connected to one another and to Yiddishkeit. With Yossie making sure that everyone was happy, it didn't take long before the Chabad house felt like home to me and for many other students as well.
A number of us from that time and place owe our return to Judaism to Yossie. Even though we may be at different levels of observance, we each developed a greater knowledge and a deeper love of Yiddishkeit ignited by Yossie's warmth and belief in each of us. To this day, when I hear Shabbat songs, I picture Yossie happily singing off-key at that shabby table and I smile wistfully."
Cheryl understands perfectly why Yossie was chosen by the Rebbe to go to faraway, exotic places such as Iran and India to scout out Jewish communities. "It was because of his rare ability to make everyone feel special along with his spirit of generosity that was always so evident."
"When Yossie moved to Israel, his life blossomed into the realm of something legendary. Reading so many comments online about the amazing energy and love he had for "his" children, the children of Chernobyl, I fondly remember the campus Chabad house and know that Yossie's contagious love of people found a perfect focus."
A year later, Yossie once again found himself in the midst of an uproar. This time in the midst of a very fierce uprising in Iran. As mentioned before, this was one of the countries that Raichik and Gerlitzky found themselves in during their trip around the Far East. At that time neither of them had the slightest idea that their short trip to this Muslim country was just the start of a longer visit which would include the saving of Jewish children on a much wider scale.
Shevat 5739. After many months of unrest that culminated in a change of leadership in Iran. The Shah and his family fled to Egypt and the Ayatollah Khomeini took over the country.
Chaos reigned in the country and bedlam in the streets. Those who were faithful to the previous leaders were hung. With no order in the streets, people with guns ran wild without anyone stopping them. If they thought any passerby was a traitor he was just shot. The Jewish community, feared for their lives and were too frightened to leave their homes, yet they started to think about sending the children out of the country. Into this picture came Yossie Raichik and his friend Herzl Illulian.
Herzl, a student in 770, travelled to Iran six months earlier, in the middle of the summer of 5738. Like many of his friends who took advantage of the holidays by going to various places spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit, Herzl asked to return to Iran, where he was born, in order to visit his older brother and work with the Jewish community.
The Rebbe gave him his blessings; he packed his bags and boarded a plane. On this journey he was accompanied by Rabbi Sholom Ber Hecht, the Rabbi of the Persian community in Queens, N.Y., who in the course of his work learned to appreciate the ways and manner of life of the Iranian Jews.
These two men found a thriving Jewish community in Iran that considered themselves 'traditional'. They gathered the young boys and established a Yeshiva framework for them in Teheran, and because Rabbi Hecht had to return to the U.S., Herzl called in his good friend Yossie Raichik, who already knew the lifestyle and the local Jewish leaders. "I arrived with a suitcase full of kosher food that would last us for a week," Yossie told reporters during an interview many years later, "but in fact I stayed for nearly a month and a half, until erev Rosh Hashana. In the meantime the food was finished, and I was forced to keep a strict diet."
 "We started to gather the youth and teach them Torah," Yossie said describing the way they started. "At the same time we were visiting homes, discussing keeping Shabbat, kashrut, and putting the mezuzot we brought with us up on doors. When the situation in the streets deteriorated, the urgency of taking the children out of the country was the only option. Our aim was twofold. First, to physically save the lives of the Jewish children, and two, to make sure that these children would have a good Jewish education in the U.S., thereby being saved from assimilation.
Rachel Illulian, then a small girl in Teheran, recalls the young Chabad man who stayed in her parent's home, "That first Friday night we stayed up until the morning as he told us about the Rebbe, and Chabad. On his first erev Shabbos in Iran, he bought my parents flowers in honor of Shabbos. My father asked him 'Why did you trouble yourself and buy flowers?' and Yossie answered with a broad smile, 'That's in honor of Shabbos'. His sense of kindness was unbelievable, he once saw me light the Shabbos candles on a plate, for the next Shabbos he brought me a candlestick."
"And there were also so many problems," she recalls. "Bread in Iran was kosher but not Pas Yisroel. When my father noticed that our guest didn't touch the bread, he started getting up at 5 AM, going to the bakery to turn on the fire. Although the non-Jews could not understand, at least Yossie could now have bread with his meal."
"He once gave me a gift of a record. I put it in the record player and as I played it all I heard was 'ay ya ya ya yay' and I thought to myself that he had given me a broken record that just repeats itself. Years later, when I came close to Chabad and I learned about niggunim, I realized it was never broken!"
"In spite of the difficult days, a beautiful and quiet atmosphere prevailed in our home, and my father and Yossie kept up the good humor, joking and teasing each other."
"Yossie was a true friend. There was no limit to his kindness and thoughtfulness," she says, and adds that later when she and her sister were in N.Y., Yossie took good care of them.
 "He did everything for our wedding. He made two Sheva Brochos for us and was the MC under the chupa. It is no wonder to me that he turned out so great; he truly followed the way of his unique parents."
After their stay in Iran, Yossie Raichik and Herzl Ilullian returned to New York for the High Holidays, and immediately started the groundwork for the integration of the refugees. In the beginning they planned for the placement of a small group of children from affluent families and therefore looked for suitable educational institutions. At each school they were met by a simple question 'Do they speak English?' and when the reply was no, they were rejected by the directors of the various institutions. Therefore, they concluded the only option open to them was to open a special institution for the Jewish Iranian refugees.
The father of Rabbi Sholom Hecht, Rabbi Yaacov Yehuda (known as J.J.) Hecht, one of the directors of the Local Council for the Protection of Jewish Education in the U.S., took upon himself the heavy financial responsibility involved in opening and operating such an institution. Herzl Illulian returned to Teheran during Chol Hamoed Succot to prepare the group for the journey. Each family purchased their own tickets while the Chabad representatives obtained their visas through the American Consulate in Iran. On Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5738 this group arrived safely at JFK and they thought this was the end of their mission.
 "One of the nights during the month of Shevat, the phone rang in my parent's home in the early hours of the morning," recalls Rabbi Shalom Ber Hecht. "At the other end of the line was the director of the Jewish Community in Iran, David Shofet. He was desperate, begging my father to save their children. "They are recruiting our children, they are harassing our daughters and the situation is becoming very dangerous." he described. "How many children are we talking about?" my father A"H asked, to which Shofet replied, "As many as you can."
 "We understood that we had a very complicated situation on our hands, and we started to prepare for an operation on a much larger scale, and therefore we asked the Rebbe, who answered immediately, "Do everything you can in order to save as many children as possible." Illulian sent us a list of hundreds of names, and we started to fill in visa forms for each and every one of them. Yossie and I were made responsible for their integration into the States and we started to look for and purchase houses for all the refugees. We purchased houses one after another, as though we were in a supermarket."
Rabbi Hecht continues remembering all the problems that arose. Because of the large extent of this operation the border police thought they were dealing with Iranian terrorists. "After overcoming this we had to prove that we were able to financially maintain each and every child." But then a more urgent problem arose. Due to the riots in Iran the work of the American Embassy was stopped, and in its wake the authorization of visas ceased. "Our only options were to fly the groups of children to various countries in Europe, such as Italy and England and wait there for the long awaited visas."
(By the way it is interesting to note that when then President of the U.S., Ronald Reagan, decided to stop the entry of Iranian refugees because of the tension between the two countries, a prefix was adjoined to this agreement stating specifically 'this does not include the children of the project of Rabbi Hecht).
Dr. Jeremy Rosen, then director of the exclusive Jewish school, Carmel College in London, recalls the day when he was called to the offices of a member of their board of directors, Mr. Cyril Stein who was known as a staunch supporter of Chabad. There waiting for him was also Rabbi Faivish Vogel, one of the directors of Chabad in England. The two of them informed Dr. Rosen that 200 Iranian Jewish refugee children were on their way to London where they would have to stay pending the arrival of their American visas, and the request was whether places could be found for them in Carmel College.
"Initially I thought it was unworkable," relates Dr. Rosen. "How could we cope with hundreds of teenage boys and girls, with no English, no idea of English discipline, or of an orthodox environment? They were away from home, uncertain and insecure, and for an unknown time span. I envisioned hordes of kids running wild. How would we occupy them? Feed them? All the problems of logistics and integration overwhelmed me.
I called in the teacher responsible for English as a Foreign Language, Mrs. C., and she flatly refused to handle the situation, saying that none of her colleagues would cooperate either. She had not been employed to be a babysitter, she said. From her, opposition to receiving the children spread to all the non-Jewish staff, who were unanimously opposed to a project they saw as endangering the academic status, discipline and teaching capacity of the staff. I relayed their views to Ray Vogel. He blithely assured me that he would send someone who would take care of everything.
I felt I had no moral option. These were Jewish kids in distress, who needed help, all the more so because so many of them had no idea where their parents were. I gave the go ahead.
The day the buses arrived Mrs. C. and her allies gathered to protest the arrival of the newcomers. When the first bus came to a halt, out bounced a cheerful, smiling, young American Chabadnik. He gave me a bear hug and introduced himself as Yossie Raichik from California. He said he was going to be with the Iranian children throughout their stay, and he would guarantee they would be well-behaved.
He asked who the ringleader of the opposition was. I pointed Mrs. C. out to him. He went right up to her, and took her for a walk down the drive. Five minutes later they returned. Mrs. C. walked over to the non-Jewish staff, huddled with them, and then announced the opposition was over and she would take responsibility for their English program. And everyone quietly went back to work. Yossie smiled at me. He never told me what he had said. He just jumped back onto the bus and the convoy continued to the residential building where they unloaded.
For over a month, Yossie lived with the Iranian kids on our campus, commuting to London to arrange their papers. The kids themselves were some of the sweetest, nicest kids we had seen and they behaved impeccably. I have kept in touch with some of them ever since. Yossie was like the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Wherever he went, his kids, our kids, were just mesmerized by him.
We would meet in the evenings or on Shabbat for a l'chayim. He talked about his life in California. When he and the children from Iran left, we were all sad. His parting gift to my eldest son, who was four at the time, was a stuffed bear called 'Bear Mitzva' complete with tzizit and a kippa, which my son named 'Yossie Raichik' after him, and which stayed with him for many years. We all will always remember Yossie Raichik, he pushed himself over the limit in order to influence as many people as he could, more than any other person I know."
 Rabbi Faivish Vogel also remembers that period when Yossie Raichik was with these children. It was, in his words, a most unforgettable experience.
"He took care of all the requirements of these kids as though he was their father," he relates. "He oversaw their integration into the Lubavitch and Hasmonean local schools in London and members of the staff held him in great esteem seeing how capable he was managing this difficult project. Yossie certainly brought credit to Chabad wherever he went and exemplified the spirit and essence of Ahavas Yisroel."
"I knew him from when he was young, and we kept contact for many years. There is no doubt that Yossie inherited his sweet and kind personality from his parents, and his smile brought happiness and hope to everyone he encountered. When we sat together in the "Ohel Hakodesh" of the Rebbe learning a Chassidishe sicha, I learned from him fresh insights expressing a profound sense of Hiskashrus, connection.
"When he was here in London, I introduced him to many of my friends. To all, he left a deep and lasting impression. To some of them he made an impact on their religious lives. Everyone loved him."
Summing up the project of the Iranian refugees, the numbers tell all: Over 1,000 young boys and girls arrived in the States within the framework of the Chabad mission. In their new country, a boarding and educational institution awaited them, established in lightening speed. Their integration was full of vexing problems but was also invested with the resourcefulness of a very devoted young man; Yossie Raichik.
Within a few years the parents also arrived from Iran, managing to escape, using various methods. They rejoiced in having their children back, healthy and happy. Some people later made their way to live in Israel. These refugees grew up, married and built families. They can be found throughout the U.S. and the world, over 100 of the families keeping kosher, faithful to their heritage, with the second generation living according to the Torah and mitzvot. Some of them, in time, became shluchim themselves, just as eager to spread the word of Torah and Yiddishkeit as the shluchim who made their rescue possible.
 As a Shepherd Leading his Flock
Rabbi Dani Yiftach-Hashem, is one of them. A Jewish boy who was just 13½, years of age when he escaped from Iran, he spent time in Italy while waiting for his visa, and from there he traveled to America. Today, Rabbi Dani is a successful shaliach in Marina Del Ray, California, and Director of the Chabad High School in Los Angeles. He remembers the period of adjustment to America. It was not at all easy and trouble free, but who was always there to listen, to support and to say a good word? Rabbi Yossie Raichik.
"It was a very difficult time for us; young kids without family, away from home, no phones, cell phones or faxes, we were homesick," he remembers. "At times such as this a person needs a ray of hope, an ear that listens and a warm smile to make you feel things will be ok. Rabbi Raichik was the warm smile, the ear that listened and the one that made us feel we are not abandoned. We felt he cared and that meant we mattered."
According to Rabbi Yiftach-Hashem, who was then much too young to remember the small details and the wonderful stories, but who can nevertheless relate without any shadow of doubt that "It was through Rabbi Yossie that we knew that our flock had a shepherd."
"Of course in the bigger picture, the Rebbe was leading and Rabbi J.J. Hecht was responsible and there were many bochurim that were also helping out, and many families opened their homes to us."
"But Yossie and what he did or said to us was what resonated with the Persian kids and was considered to be authoritative about was going to happen. His trademark was his broad, warm, caring smile," says the shaliach and then he adds, "Everything and everyone has an effect on a person's life that changes him and becomes part of who he is. Yossie Raichik is very much a part of who I am and how my life was shaped in those early turbulent times when we left Iran and came to US."
"Rabbi Yossie Raichik has and will forever have a special place in our hearts."
Rabbi David Lulian, another child from Iran, tells us that it is deeply imprinted on him "who set him on the right path." "Six months after we arrived in the States, Yossie decided that I should continue to study in a more serious yeshiva framework, and he enrolled me in the Chabad Yeshiva in California." He thinks back wistfully and continues, "The big day arrived, I packed my bags with the few things I had from Iran and off we went to… a big shopping center, where Yossie insisted on 'fitting me out' using his own personal funds, buying me whatever he thought I would need, making sure that there would be no difference between me and the other kids."
 "This was not enough for him since after the bags were overflowing, he brought me to his home, asking his mother Rabbanit Raichik, of blessed memory, to make all the necessary alterations in the clothing, everything had to fit one hundred percent."
The years in the Chabad Yeshiva made their mark, and today, Rabbi Lulian is a shaliach and director of the Center for the Persian Community "Hechal Moshe" in Encino, California. "I will never, ever forget," he said quite simply, "who is responsible and to whom I owe my life to, as it is today."
 A Guide to a Way of Life
"Soon after we arrived in New York I celebrated my Bar Mitzvah," recalls Binyamin Maccabi, another Persian refugee. "It was Rabbi Yossie who made sure that I came to the Rebbe for "Yechidus" "The Rebbe," remembers Maccabi, "spoke for a long time with Rabbi Raichik about me, asked him if I was from Teheran and when he answered in the affirmative, I corrected him and said that I came from Shiraz."
"As a child, his face always appeared to me as holy. I don't know if this was because Yossie was always happy, or because he was a shaliach of a great Tzaddik, the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I did not know him all that well, however, Rabbi Raichik seemed always to me to be an amazing person and that's how I'll remember him forever."
Yehuda, another refugee from Iran of the same period, talks of their difficult integration, as very small children in a land far away from home. Their homesickness and longing, their uncertainties and the strange language, all tied together to threaten the future until Yossie arrived.
"At the very first meeting," he recalls, "this Chabbadnik kid surprised us. His way to get to know each and everyone of us personally, delving into the smallest details of our lives and needs. This was a most unforgettable time that left us with the most cherished and wonderful memories," he states, "and this was just the first meeting! Any negative feelings we had immediately just melted away. Here was someone on our side, and this changed everything!"
"The next day, Rabbi Raichik came again, early in the morning, excited to be able to speak to us all. He remembered all our names, wanted to know what towns we all came from and what we expected to do in America. Even more important, stresses Yehuda with excitement, was that the Chabadnik asked what he could do for us. That same morning, we, each and every one of us, felt like we were his only son!"
"Days passed, and our admiration for him deepened and grew, we honored him, we trusted him, and he fulfilled all his promises. One of the points that I remember most clearly was that any child who felt sad, who felt homesick, or had any sort of a problem found their way to the office of Rabbi Raichik. There they were able to pour out their hearts. He always had time to listen and was careful to be discreet. A true Rabbi, a spiritual leader, a tzaddik and a guide to a way of life for all of us."
"Most of the children," says Yehuda, "came from traditional homes only. In the institution that was established for them in the States, the directors were asked to bring them closer to Yiddishkeit, even though this was not always easy. Rabbi Raichik, he adds, never ever forced us or punished us, for the sake of Torah and mitzvos. "Actually he showed us through incredible and inspiring stories. If it would not have been for him," he is certain "I would not have chosen the way I chose today. I admired very much his wisdom, his knowledge, his patience and his integrity. I certainly think of myself as being extremely fortunate to have met and known a person of his caliber."
 Every Day, New Challenges
A Chabad chassid the same age as Yossie, Rabbi Moshe Chahempour, spent a lot of time with him during the rescue operation. He was with him for many months in London, and together they faced the challenge of caring for these children in the States. When Rabbi Chahempour hears the name "Yossie Raichik" he is filled with nostalgia.
"I first met Yossie in the office of Rabbi J. J. Hecht in Crown Heights," he remembers. "This is how our friendship started and we quickly developed a strong bond."
"In spite of being born into a prestigious Chabad family, with a father who was the emissary of the previous Rebbe and a mother whose home was open to all, nevertheless it was Yossie Raichik who was able to relate to and enter the hearts of the children from Iran. These small ones desperately needed every bit of warmth possible, and their thirst for Yiddishkeit was often unbelievable. And Yossie? He did everything he could for them."
"He put aside his studies and everything else in his personal life for this most amazing project. I remember the Holiday of Shavuot of that year, Yossie went running from place to place in order that we would have enough of the newest and up to date games to reward the kids who would sit up all night and learn in 770. The children from Iran, were the ones, and the only ones, on the top of his priority list."
Rabbi Chahempour, as was mentioned, was also in London working on this project with Yossie. Every day brought new challenges together with many difficulties. Yossie had a strong personality, took upon himself these problems and sorted them out, one by one until they were resolved. "And always, always, he protected these children. Even when the financial strain became daunting, Yossie made sure that the children would not suffer. He initiated original ideas to bring them closer to a life of Torah and mitzvot, and he did everything in his power so that they would continue to enjoy and to take pleasure in life just as a regular kid should.
"Whenever he thought that they needed an extra teacher for either Jewish or secular studies, he did not hesitate, picked up the phone to Rabbi Shalom Ber Hecht, or to his father, Rabbi Yaacov Yehuda Hecht, and at the end of a short, persuasive conversation, they agreed. They always agreed with him. Quickly an extra counselor or teacher was sent to London or to the institution in New York, wherever the request came from.
"He organized trips throughout London for these children hoping that they would get over their homesickness and longings. Each time a problem or misunderstanding arose, Yossie would be their advocate. Even though we were good friends and close to each other, we sometimes had disagreements over matters concerning the children from Iran. However his enormous open heart and grand soul had one aim; just to make these kids happy; he could not do enough for them. Calculating finances for them was just not for him. With his two beautiful shining green eyes always flickering two rays of love, his wide, endearing smile hidden behind his beard conquered the heart of every boy and girl."
Rabbi Chahempour remembers endless problems that kept creeping up, even when they thought that they had come to finally reached calm in the United States. One of the greatest dramas happened one night when a fire broke out in the girl's dormitories. All the children were immediately evacuated from the building and were taken to an alternative residence. The fire broke out, relates Rabbi Chahempour, due to negligence on behalf of the personnel, and with a little more care this really could have been avoided.
"More than being distressed I boiled with anger," he relates. "I remember crossing Eastern Parkway together with Yossie, asking him how can a person, especially one who keeps Torah and mitzvos, be so careless, be so negligent, especially when it comes to human life?"
"I will never in my life forget Yossie's answer, which was one of the greatest lessons in my life: 'Just imagine,' he said to me, 'what might have happened if these counselors would not have learned Torah and kept the mitzvot. How much more harm and damage could have been done, had it not been that the Torah was ingrained in them!'"
Throughout the years Rabbi Chahempour kept in close contact with Rabbi Raichik, they met from time to time and he has many wonderful memories. "His frankness with every person, his magic smile, it is hard for me to believe that he was ever miserable or that he ever made anyone else miserable. Yossie was like a burning flame of energy and happiness, even when the most serious and important matters had to be discussed he always opened with a small joke, accompanied with a beautiful smile that says, "Don't worry, it isn't such a big deal."
"My dear friend Yossie," he closes his eyes as he draws closer to the memory of his dear friend. "I want you to know that that wonderful smile of yours has not vanished, it continues and lives on in the lives of the many children that you saved from Iran. Over 45 of them are today rabbis and shluchim, doctors, scientists and successful businessmen. Nearly all of them have established families, and many of them are members of Chabad communities. For these, and for all those who met you in your life and were touched by your personality, you were and you always will be an outstanding figure and a true, courageous mentor."
To end this chapter are some remarks by Rabbi Yossie's brother, Rabbi Levi Raichik.
"One day, last year, I was invited to speak at a synagogue in Los Angeles. At the end of my speech, a man stepped forward and introduced himself. He gave his first and family name adding, "I am one of the children that Yossie helped escape from a burning Iran. Until this very day I feel a deep gratitude to him." This was very moving, to meet someone who remembered Yossie after thirty years, but then came words even more touching; "Since the 21st of Av 5768, the day Yossie passed away, I have been lighting a special candle on Fridays, in everlasting memory of Reb Yosef Yitzchak ben Menachem Shmuel Dovid,' he said with his voice choking with tears. For a few minutes we stood silently looking at each other, only our red eyes gave evidence of what we felt inside."
For nearly two years Yossie Raichik was extremely active in the project to save the children from Iran, and when he saw that they all had acclimatized themselves and that they were all settled in educational institutions and yeshivot, on the correct pathways to a productive, Jewish life, was he able to move on to his next project.
 Sanctifying the Name of the Almighty in Los Angeles
Los Angeles, the City of Angels, where Yossie was born, was the place the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe had sent Yossie's father to fill the spiritual gap and to spread Judaism amongst the thousands of Jewish people living there. This energetic young man approached the local head shaliach, Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, and was very quickly integrated into the activities of Chabad in Los Angeles. The team at the local Chabad house in Westwood under the leadership of Rabbi Binyomin Lisbon immediately recognized Yossie Raichik's qualities, and they have warm, vivid memories of Yossie thirty years later.
"He was a most amazing person," summarizes Rabbi Lisbon. "He treated everyone equally, with the same smile and same devotion. I can certainly vouch for the fact that Yossie never categorized people; homeless people and public figures were, in his eyes. equal, and to each and everyone he gave over his entire being."
"His thinking was always out of the box, original, refreshing, innovative. His motto was "lechatchila ariber" - striving for the top in the first place, transcending all obstacles, working energetically and decisively, always going forward. From every place, to every event he was involved with, he brought great honor and recognition of the Almighty in general and Lubavitch in particular.
"From the very first meeting, I was captivated by his smile, by his charm, his goodness and the wisdom lurking behind it all!" says Ruchie Stillman, who worked as a secretary at the Chabad House in Westwood during those years. "His special trademark was stamped wherever and whatever he was involved with, events that he organized, people he met, even a minute in his company – he extended to you a feeling of fulfillment , a most unexplainable feeling of perfection.
Public relations was the main responsibility of Raichik's position at the Chabad House. It was his responsibility to place advertisements in the various media about the activities of the shluchim and this, as Rabbi Lisbon points out, was not an easy job. Pressure from various quarters, looming dead-lines, unfinished articles and multiple projects, "Yossie knew how to deal with them all and with everyone, in his special and enchanting manner. Every event he arranged was amazing. When he organized the lighting of the Chanuka menora, local television technician crews came, as well as people from the entire city. If the event was not organized by Yossie, it just simply was not the same."
Rabbi Lisbon focuses on the special characteristics that Yossie was blessed with, the ability to love each and every person and to be loved by them just as much. He recalls a wedding that Rabbi Raichik attended in Los Angeles that took place a couple of years ago. During a conversation, the shaliach mentioned to Raichik that an elderly woman, who was not so healthy, was present and wished to contribute to the Children of Chernobyl project, and Rabbi Lisbon would like to introduce him to her.
"I assumed that Yossie would give her his business card, as anyone else would have done, and promise to be in contact with her in regards to the contribution. But no, after he had chatted a bit about the contribution, he continued to sit next to this ailing woman for at least one and half hours patiently listening as she related her life stories to him. I have never seen such a thing," Rabbi Lisbon related excitedly "He just sat and gave her all of his time, just to give her some attention; a real case of Ahavas Yisroel Yossie had this special way of loving everyone according to their needs."
And this love bounced back to Yossie because people from all over the world reacted in the same manner. "It was difficult to get annoyed with him," said Rabbi Lisbon when remembering another episode:
"We sat together, all the personnel at the Chabad House for a meeting, and we were about to start when we realized Yossie Raichik had not yet arrived. Oh well, we will have to wait a while."
Whoever knew Yossie," he smiles, "will realize that we had to wait quite some time. We did not have mobile phones at that time, and all our efforts to find him were unsuccessful, so we decided to go ahead without him. How long can one wait?"
"The meeting started, and subject matters were discussed, and at one point the door opened, and at long last Yossie stood at the door, his eyes shining, as though he was not so late, explaining by way of an apology that he had stopped at a gas station to fill up and met a Jewish person and he asked him to put on tefillin, and the conversation got involved. What a story! Instead of yelling at him for being late, and how long we had waited for him and reminding him of his position in the Chabad House, we all laughed as we said no problem, we all loved him so much that just seeing him dissipated any feelings of anger."
"And truthfully?" adds Rabbi Lisbon smiling, "We just wasted our time starting our meeting without him. Only when he arrived did the agenda start to run smoothly. Ideas came forward, problems were solved, as Yossie, in his typical manner, conducted the meetings by arranging for everything. With Yossie around everything was completely different."
 When Yossie Burst Out Crying
Yossie worked at the Chabad House in Westwood, got married and stayed in Los Angeles for a total of seven years. During this period Yossie was involved in many projects with the shluchim in the city. He was friendly with the well-known artist Yakov Agam, who built the famous "Agam Menorah" which was the public Chanukah menorah in Beverly Hills for many years. Yossie was among those responsible for the annual fundraising program, the LeChaim Telethon, that was held by the Chabad House under the leadership of Rabbi Cunin since the 1980s. The telethon has been on air annually on the West Coast and raises annually millions of dollars for the humanitarian activities of Chabad of California.
When Rabbi Raichik and his wife Dinah immigrated to Israel in 5748, they settled in Tel Aviv and he started to work in Tzach as a member of the Directorate and as a fundraiser. After a number of years he became the director of "Children of Chernobyl" Project and five years later the family moved from Tel Aviv to Kfar Chabad and the home he lived in until his last days.
The Tel Aviv lawyer Michael Avital became very friendly with Yossie during this period and their friendship endured after the Raichiks moved to Kfar Chabad. Avital remembers, with tears, his good friend and sums up the few years of friendship as ones entwined with a great deal of chessed, kindness. "Any attempt I could make to describe his deeds will reduce them. What was most prominent about Yossie was his good heart. This was apparent through his wonderful hospitality, generosity, his aspiration to bring closer those far from Yiddishkeit, his total devotion to what he believed in and his ceaseless concern for others."
Michael recalls Purim 5743: Rabbi Yossie Raichik, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Pierkarski and himself, three good friends, met after the Purim meal that each one celebrated in their respective homes, and they went to the home of the former Knesset member, Rabbi Avraham Shapiro for further festivities.
At the height of the merry-making, Yossie stood up, and with great enthusiasm, asked all those present to bless him that he should be present at the Bar Mitzvah of his eldest son, Elimelech, and also at his chupah. His friends looked at him in amazement and with their hands, eradicated such thoughts. Whoever thought otherwise? Why shouldn't their good friend be with them for many good and long years to come?
"And then,' continued Michael "Rabbi Yossie Raichik burst out crying. 20 years later, when we heard the horrible news, we burst out crying, it seems apparent that Yossie, at the height of spirituality, on such a high point, knew and felt what we did not dare think of in our darkest and wildest dreams."
Yes, Yossie indeed was present at the Bar Mitzvah celebrations of his sons, and he sensed it was a gift. But for their weddings, only if we will merit the coming of Moshiach, the Redemption, when we will be reunited with our departed loved ones, and Yossie's infectious smile will embrace us once again.
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