||April 14, 2011
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This book is an account of Rasputin as a healer, equal rights activist and man of God, and why he was so vilified by the aristocracy that their libelous and slanderous rumors became accepted as history.
For nearly a century, Grigory Rasputin, spiritual advisor to Russia's last Tsar and Tsarina, has been unjustly maligned, simply because history is written by the politically powerful and not by the common man. A wealth of evidence shows that Rasputin was discredited by a fanatically anti-Semitic Russian society, for advocating equal rights for the severely oppressed Jewish population, as well as for promoting peace in a pro-war era.
Testimony by Rasputin's friends and enemies, from all social strata, provides a picture of a spiritual man who hated bigotry, inequity and violence.
The author is the great-great niece of Aron Simanovitch, Rasputin's Jewish secretary.
Rasputin and The Jews
This eye-opening book relies on dozens of sources, people close to Rasputin, friends and enemies, and reveals the truth about him. Delin Colon is the great-great niece of Rasputin's Jewish secretary.
Grigory Rasputin (born around 1870, died by assassination in 1916) was an uneducated, nearly illiterate, but highly intelligent and very religious man. He made a couple of pilgrimages to Israel. He was the spiritual advisor to Russia's last Tsar and Tsarina. He was unfairly vilified by the fanatically anti-Semitic Russian society because, contrary to them, he advocated equal rights for all of Russia's citizens, including peasants, the poverty-stricken, and Jews; his strong ethically-held anti-war views; and his opposition to the death penalty. The distorted history by his detractors pictures this saintly man as hypnotizing the Tsar and his wife and forcing them to obey his wishes. Actually, the Tsar frequently refused to follow Rasputin's advice.
Rasputin "took up the causes of the oppressed, sometimes receiving up to 200 people a day." He prayed with people and gave spiritual advice. He never took a penny for his services. He was an empathic and herbal healer, a man of peace who wanted to avoid war because he realized that it would result in millions of deaths, including cruelty to enemy soldiers and civilians, and would lead to the demise of his country. (Russia lost four million lives during World War I.) His strongly-held views about equal rights for all people took no cognizance of the person's faith and background. He felt that "all religions were valuable and were just different ways of understanding God." He opposed the death penalty because he was convinced that many condemned people were innocent.
Delin Colon describes in detail the terrible history of anti-Semitism and oppression of Jews in Russia by all but one ruler since Peter the Great spread the fear and paranoia about Jews during his rule from 1696 to 1725. He said that he'd rather have Muslim in Russia than Jews. There were times when Jews were expelled from Russia. Horrible restrictions were always placed upon them that affected every aspect of life. There were many "pogroms," state sponsored murders of Jewish communities, where lives were lost and property confiscated.
Rasputin criticized these practices. "Instead of organizing pogroms and accusing Jews of all evils, we would do better to criticize ourselves." In 1910, he took the side of 307 Jewish dentists who were charged with becoming dentists only to avoid having to live in the pale, the area the government insisted that Jews live. He saved them from being killed. In 1913, he stood up for Mendel Bellis at the infamous "blood libel trial," where Jews were accused of killing Christians and using their blood when they baked matzot for Passover. He helped Jewish children enter schools despite restrictive quotas. He stopped some pogroms by alerting the Jewish community of the intended attack. During World War I, he helped free a Jewish doctor from a German prison. These are only several of the many humanitarian acts that Colon describes in her book.
The Tsar brought Rasputin to his court in 1905 because he heard that Rasputin was a mystical man, and the Tsar was very superstitious. He also heard that he was a healer; and Rasputin later used herbs to stem the bleeding of the hemophiliac son of the Tsar. However, the Tsar did not always listen to his advice. "When the Tsar issued a manifesto promising autonomy to Poland, Rasputin encouraged him to also grant equal rights to the Jews," but the Tsar refused. He recommended to the Tsar that despite the vast profits that the government made from the sale of vodka, the Tsar shut down these stores, because the drinking was unhealthy and the cause of misery to the less fortunate classes, and the Tsar refused. He advocated "expropriating land from the aristocracy, with compensation, and distributing it among the peasants so that they could have food to eat and dignity, but the Tsar refused.
What did the Tsar himself think of Rasputin? He said, "he's simply a Russian, good, religious, with a simple spirit; when in pain or doubt, I like to talk with him and invariably, I feel at peace with myself." When the Tsar heard that his relatives had murdered Rasputin, he said, "I am filled with shame that the hands of my kinsmen are stained with the blood of a simple peasant."
Scholars have concluded that if Rasputin's programs would have been adopted by the misguided Tsar, they "would have been a viable means of averting the 1917 revolution."
It is tragic that a person should be vilified because he sought to aid people, and it is even more heartrending that all too many people accepted these lies as true. We owe Delin Colon thanks for revealing the truth.
Reviewed by Dr. Israel Drazin, the author of seventeen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides. The Orthodox Union (OU) and Yeshiva University publish weekly chapters of Drazin and Wagner's book Let's Study Onkelos on www.ou.org/torah and on email@example.com. His website is http://booksnthoughts.com.
Rasputin and the Jews: A new history?
In her new book, Delin Colón used the French memoirs of her great-great uncle to put forth an interesting argument for another reason why Grigory Rasputin might have been killed – his acceptance of Russia’s Jews.
Rasputin’s death is already the stuff of legend. It’s been said that he was tricked into ingesting enough poison to kill five men but remained unaffected. When that didn’t work, his murderers shot him four times, beat him, bound his body, wrapped him in a carpet and threw him into an icy river. He apparently broke free from the bindings and the carpet but drowned in the partially frozen waters.
By the time of his murder, Russia was in the throes of World War I and, with Tsar Nicholas II away at the front, Rasputin began exercising more and more influence over Tsaritsa Alexandra. As a longtime member of the royal court, he held considerable sway over her decisions and he even convinced her to fill several government posts with his handpicked candidates.
Meanwhile, many Russians blamed Rasputin and his influence on the royals for the country’s deteriorating economy. It also didn’t help that the war was not going well.
Now, in a slim 112-page book, Colón has put forth the notion that Rasputin’s advocacy on behalf of the country’s Jews contributed to his demise. The author says she’s spent a dozen years gathering the facts and first learned about Rasputin’s philo-Semitism by reading the memoirs of her great-great uncle, Aron Simanovitch, Rasputin’s Jewish secretary.
"This book is an account of Rasputin as a healer, equal rights activist and man of God, and why he was so vilified by the aristocracy that their libelous and slanderous rumors became accepted as history. For nearly a century, Grigory Rasputin, spiritual advisor to Russia’s last Tsar and Tsarina, has been unjustly maligned simply because history is written by the politically powerful and not by the common man. A wealth of evidence shows that Rasputin was discredited by a fanatically anti-Semitic Russian society, for advocating equal rights for the severely oppressed Jewish population, as well as for promoting peace in a pro-war era. Testimony by his friends and enemies, from all social strata, provides a picture of a spiritual man who hated bigotry, inequity and violence."
Sound interesting? Sure. I think this could open up even more argument over Rasputin’s life and, of course, his legendary death.
Reviewed by Steve Pollak, editor, Jewish Literary Review
A Make-Over for the Mad Monk
Almost every day, I am privileged to hear from authors who call my attention to their newly-published books. But none of them claimed my attention quite as forcefully as Delin Colón, author of “Rasputin and the Jews: A Reversal of History.”
First, she is the great-great-grandniece of Aron Simanovitch, a Jewish man who served as the secretary to Grigory Rasputin himself. Second, she makes the audacious argument that the so-called “Mad Monk” was, in fact, “a healer, humanitarian, equal rights activist and man of God” as well as a benefactor of the Jewish people and a champion of oppressed women.
The conventional wisdom, of course, is that Rasputin, the priest who was spiritual advisor to the last tsar and tsarina of Russia, was a charismatic seducer who exercised an uncanny and unwholesome influence on the monarchs. He is commonly depicted as an illiterate who loved to imbibe and refused to bathe, a compulsive ruiner of virgins who used his hypnotic powers and the privileges of the priesthood to carry out his seductions.
His moral crimes aside, however, it was his reputed interference in matters of state that prompted a gang of Russian aristocrats to murder him. Rasputin was famously hard to kill — he survived a massive dose of poison, several gunshots, and a brutal beating before finally drowning when his battered body was sunk in the Neva, or so goes the stories that have long been told about him.
Colón rejects “the outrageous rumors perpetrated by a bigoted, small-minded, self-absorbed society,” including the “debauchery, sins, or crimes” that were commonly charged against him. She is wholly uninterested in the Grand Guignol that accompanied his murder. She is more interested in what Rasputin did in life.
“The people Rasputin helped – the underdogs of society, the Jews, peasants, and poverty-stricken were not in a position to speak up or even to be believed,” she insists. “The long perpetuated image of Rasputin is of a man who committed evil for the sake of evil alone. Naturally, the largely anti-Semitic aristocracy would think it evil to champion the cause of the oppressed Russian peasants and especially the Jews.”
Among her sources is the memoir of her own distant relative, Rasputin’s personal secretary, and she concedes that his account has been impugned by historians “due to the inclusion in his memoirs of bizarre court gossip and exaggeration of his own importance in the court.” But she insists that his regard for Rasputin is supported by the historical record, and she makes an earnest and plausible case in the pages of her book that he was not the monster that his enemies made him out to be.
Russian history provides us with enough real monsters to make even the storybook version of Rasputin seem like nothing more than a villain out of melodrama. According to Colón, however, he was not even that.
Copies of “Rasputin and the Jews” are available for purchase at Amazon.com
Jonathan Kirsch, author and publishing attorney, is the book editor of The Jewish Journal. He can be reached at www.jewishjournal.com/twelvetwelve.
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