Rabbi Sholom Noginski says conquering darkness with light is ‘the only way forward’
By: Rochel Horowitz
The rabbi who was stabbed eight times in an anti-Semitic attack in Brighton, Mass., on July 1, has proclaimed his resolve to train and ordain at least eight new rabbis who will join the Chabad-Lubavitch worldwide network in spreading the light of Torah. Conquering darkness with light, he says, is “the only way forward.”
Establishing a rabbinic ordination (semichah) program was a longtime dream of Rabbi Shlomo Noginski ever since he’d studied in Israel as a young yeshivah student. He says that his recent encounter with hate only strengthened his resolve to make his dream a reality.
The new program will be held in Brighton’s vibrant Jewish community. It will be catered towards ambitious and scholarly yeshivah students from across the United States who are eager to become a part of Chabad’s global outreach initiatives. And it will also be open to the larger Jewish community of Brighton and anyone who wishes to engage in the years-long process of studying for rabbinic ordination, regardless of their prior Jewish education.
Major plans are underway for securing a building to serve as a beit midrash (study hall) as well as a dormitory. Though figuring out the logistics has been a tedious process, Noginski says that he is honored to be the face of this project by responding to hate with an initiative of hope and courage.
The rabbi says that responding to violence and destruction with a resolve to build new Jewish institutions is a mindset learned from the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.
“If every antisemitic attack resulted in deafening messages of Jewish pride and courage,” says Noginski, “people would think twice before starting up with us.”
Though he is still recovering after having sustained serious injuries, he says that he’s hoping to continue his role at the Shaloh House as soon as possible. “While pain medication and physical therapy are helping me heal physically, hearing about the good deeds that Jews worldwide have taken on in my merit, gives me tremendous strength and heals me on a soul level.”
Noginski notes that he draws his inspiration from the Tanya, one of the foremost and primary works of Chabad Chassidism written by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. There, it speaks about how a small amount of light can dispel a lot of darkness. “Darkness is not something we have to fight with; when seeking to get rid of darkness, all we have to do is add light and automatically, the darkness will dissipate,” he says.
“Every person has the power to bring about tremendous goodness,” continues Noginski “Each positive action affects change—not only in the individual, but in the strength of the Jewish people as a whole.”
An Unexpected Mitzvah in the Rabbi’s Honor
The members of the Jewish community of Boston are not the only recipients of Noginski’s campaign. Rabbi Mordechai Rubin, co-director of Colonie Chabad Chai Jewish Center in Loudonville, N.Y., relates that he and his wife, Chana, had been driving home from a family outing and had decided to stop at a park at the side of the highway.
There, they met a couple who introduced themselves as Boris and Runya Wasserman. Rabbi Rubin asked Borris, an elderly man in his 80s, if he’d like to put on tefillin. He was reluctant at first, explaining that he hadn’t had much to do with Judaism since he was a young child. “I survived the Holocaust,” he explained. “I was born in a small town in Ukraine that was overtaken by the Nazis when I was a young boy,” he said. “I haven’t put on tefillin since my bar mitzvah.”
Over the course of their conversation, it came out that the couple was visiting New York from Boston. Rubin asked him if he’d heard of Noginski, the Chabad rabbi who had been brutally attacked in Boston. “Yes,” said the octogenarian. Rubin then asked if Borris would agree to don tefillin in honor of Noginski’s speedy recovery, and he readily agreed.
Runya began to cry as she told Rubin that their grandson attended Camp Gan Israel at the Shaloh House and had been inside the building when the attack had taken place. The story of an 84-year-old Holocaust survivor and a Boston rabbi had come full circle.