Aug 11, 2017
Escaping Russia as Rebbetzin's Son

Serving in the Rebbe's home and fulfilling hundreds of tasks for the Rebbe, Rebbetzin Chana, and Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka: the fascinating life of Reb Berel Junik OBM.

By COLlive reporter

“WWII had drawn to a close, and a tiny crack had remained open in the Iron Curtain. Eager to leave the country, a mass operation was set up to procure and distribute old and forged Polish passports which would allow passage over the border.

In those days, passports were often issued to entire families as units. This being the case, the organizers of the escape rearranged families to fit the new aliases. Berel Junik was assigned a passport which listed him as an only son traveling with his “mother.” He wasn’t aware at first, but he soon found out that the “mother” he was accompanying was none other than the Rebbe’s mother, Rebbetzin Chana.”

Little did he know at the time, those few hours in Rebbetzin Chana’s presence were the beginning of a long and special relationship between Reb Berel Junik, Rebbetzin Chana, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, and the Rebbe himself.

The fascinating details of this special – indeed, almost unparalleled relationship, are featured in the Menachem Av issue of A Chassidisher Derher Magazine.
The beginning of Reb Berel’s “career” as a meshamesh bakodesh began right away after the Frierdiker Rebbe’s histalkus. He would set up the Rebbe’s place for farbrengens, and other small tasks. Before Pesach 5711, the Rebbe asked Reb Berel if he could help serve during the seder in the Frierdiker Rebbe’s apartment. Reb Berel did so faithfully until his marriage in 5714.

As time went on, his responsibilities continued to grow and grow.

The article also highlights how the Rebbe paid close attention to Reb Berel’s personal life. An episode is brought from the early days of the nesius:

Before Shavuos 5712, the Rebbe asked him if he had bought a new suit in honor of Yom Tov. When he replied that he had not, the Rebbe took out a hundred dollars, and gave it to him to buy one, and to spend on his other needs. The next time he was in the Rebbe’s room, the Rebbe asked him if he was wearing the new suit. He said yes, so the Rebbe asked him to turn around and remarked, “I think it is a little bit too small…”

Readers will find especially interesting how Reb Berel would visit Rebbetzin Chana and Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka regularly.

Once, Rebbetzin Chana asked the Rebbe “Vos macht dein yunger bruder—how is your younger brother doing?” referring to Berel, who had left Russia as her “son,” thus being the Rebbe’s “younger brother.” (In fact, the Rebbe also once called him “svoy brat,” a Russian expression which means “one of us,” but in literal terms, it means “a brother.”)

During the summer of 5713, most of the bochurim traveled on Merkos Shlichus, and only a few people were left in yeshiva. Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka suggested that Berel come for meals to the Rebbe’s house; almost every day, he would come to the Rebbe’s house and eat a hot meal. One day, as he arrived in the house, he realized that the Rebbe was present as well. He overheard the Rebbe tell the Rebbetzin, “I will go into my room while you feed him; if he knows I’m here, he won’t want to eat…”

When the article was being prepared for print, Reb Berel's son shared a story which illustrated what type of person his father was.

“The Rebbe had asked my father to assist Rashag in his elderly years,” Rabbi Menachem Junik explained. “He would help him into shul for davenings, farbrengens, and a variety of other tasks as well.

“After Maariv one Pesach eve, Reb Berel began helping Rashag back upstairs. Now, each Pesach eve, the Rebbe would give Matza to a select group of people - the secretaries and some others, and my father was normally part of this group.
“When myself and my brothers noticed that he was helping Rashag instead of heading to the Rebbe's room, we ran over and offered to help instead; we didn't want him to lose out on the Rebbe's Matzah. “Yet he refused. He insisted on being the one to help Rashag himself, even at the expense of the Rebbe’s personal attention; the Rebbe had given him a task, and he was intent on fulfilling it himself.

“Ultimately, when the Rebbe gave out the Matzos, he pointed out that Reb Berel was missing, and gave the Matzah to my brother Shamshon in his stead. The Rebbe also acknowledged Reb Berel as he left 770.

“Later, Reb Berel told his children, “You see, our job is to do what the Rebbe tells us to do. Everything else, you can leave to the Rebbe. The Rebbe knows what he is doing; if you were meant to receive something or another, the Rebbe will make sure you do.”

“With that,” concluded Menachem, “he taught us children powerful lesson. Always the dugmah chaya, Reb Berel never preached what it meant to be a chossid. Instead, he lived it.”

The full article about this special chossid can be read here.

Much more background, along with little known stories and yechidus'n, are brought in the full article in this month’s Derher Magazine, alongside a variety of other interesting articles spanning topics like: a fascinating overview on the Torah of HoRav Levi Yitzchok, The Proper Conduct of a Chossid, Chof Av 5704 (the year of HoRav Levi Yitzchok’s passing) in the Rebbe’s presence, and much, much more.

Already being enjoyed by subscribers around the world, the magazine is available for subscription and home delivery, or pick one up at local Crown Heights retailers. Visit Derher.org/subscribe

A Chassidisher Derher Magazine contains unique and historic photos provided by JEM’s Living Archive collection.



Most Read Most Comments
The Photograph of the Rebbe at Reb Berel’s Chasuna Which He Gifted The Rebbetzin, Since On Display In the Rebbe and Rebbetzin's Home
The Photograph of the Rebbe at Reb Berel’s Chasuna Which He Gifted The Rebbetzin, Since On Display In the Rebbe and Rebbetzin's Home


Postcard from Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka to Reb Berel, 5714
Postcard from Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka to Reb Berel, 5714
Postcard from Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka to Reb Berel, 5714
Postcard from Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka to Reb Berel, 5714
Reb Berel as a Bochur
Reb Berel as a Bochur


Opinions and Comments
1
Cool
It's actually a beautiful issue this month. Really well done
(8/11/2017 9:57:53 AM)
2
"The Organizers"
"This being the case, the organizers of the escape rearranged families to fit the new aliases. Berel Junik was assigned a passport which listed him as an only son traveling with his “mother.””

Who was the "Organizers"??????????????
(8/11/2017 4:15:15 PM)
3
Comment 2
One of the main organisers was "Muma Sorah", Sorah Katsenelenbogen. She gave her passport, which she had issued to travel with her son, Reb Moshe Katsenelenbogen, to the Rebbetzin who ultimately traveled with Reb Berel Junik. Shortly after, Sorah died from a heart attack whilst in prison, and Reb Moshe remained stuck in Russia for another 20 years!
(8/12/2017 4:52:18 PM)
4
Not Muma Sorah
There is no question that Muma Sorah went on mesiras nefesh to save yidden with the production of false passports, money etc. She perhaps did offer her papers for Rebbetzin Chana to use. There were a few others very involved like Reb Moshe Lemberger, Ren Liebel Mochkin and others. They gave Rebbetzin Chana papers that listed a mother and one child. Muma Sorah's papers listed a few (her) children. Ultimately, her papers were not used to save Rebbetzin Chana. That does not diminish by one iota her great work and accomplishments for which she paid the ultimate price-her life.
(8/13/2017 5:27:09 PM)
5
A Talmid
He was my teacher for "Shtelin a Chalif" whereas for shchita itself was Rabbi Kalmenson. Reb Berel has ultimate patience and soft words for each one of us. After a long day at work. Perhaps before dinner or a brake. He would teach us guide us. I remember one of the Bochurim just couldn't Shtel his knife. (Not me a different bochur:) he would help him guide his hand over the stone assisting him showing him the right way to do it angle and all. His Bitul was par excellent his care and worry for each one of us. Never a bad word never raising his voice. Those few months I would cherish forever. Thank you for sharing this article with us.
(8/13/2017 9:42:00 PM)
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