UCSJ Mourns the Passing of Former Refusenik for Zion Hillel Butman

He was involved in the 1970 Leningrad "hijack" plot, has passed away, according to Enid Wurtman.  Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, a retired American rabbi who is a neighbor to Hillel, wrote the following --

Life has its ironies.  Early this morning, Hillel (Grisha) Butman, who spent 9 years in a Soviet jail for his part in a “plot” of Leningrad Jews to hijack an internal Soviet flight to Sweden, to escape Russia and get to Israel, died at his home here in Jerusalem.  Hillel’s home is about 25 yards from mine, in a parallel cluster of row houses.  From our kitchen window, for the last 35 years, I have watched Hillel tend the roses in his garden and the lemon tree that yields large, beautiful fruit.

 Hillel was a quiet man, mufnam, either by birth or by the terrible conditions with which he had to cope, on behalf of the Jewish identity he so believed in.  He was very bright, but he did not show it off.  There was a hint of it in his smile, his face would light up when defeating opponents, over the chess board or after a decade in their prison.  Hillel was a modern Jewish hero, as you can read here.

Hillel, like most of his generation, was not religious.  But he would bring us a little plastic plate with some goodies each Purim, a simple mishloach manot, and we’d reciprocate.  That won’t happen next year, and we’ll miss it; we’ll miss Hillel.  Yehi zichro baruch.

Roger LernerComment