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Conversation With a Holocaust Survivor by Avrohom Birnbaum.

 

Article from Rabbi Rubenstein

PESACH EDUCATION

I reprint below, an article by a friend of mine who is a freelance columnist, with a sequel of my own.

Conversation With a Holocaust Survivor by Avrohom Birnbaum.

I admit I have a weakness, I am enamoured with Holocaust survivors. As that hallowed generation is sadly disappearing, I feel even more compelled to talk to these remarkable people, listen to their stories and be amazed ….. at their fortitude, their deep wisdom, and deep-seated faith.

When I was a child, most of the older adults who davenned in the shul where I grew up, were Holocaust survivors. At that time I did not really appreciate them. In fact my friends and I would sometimes joke at their idiosyncrasies. As I grew older into my later teens, I began to appreciate them and recognise what heroes they were. Yes, true heroes. Every time one of those survivors would walk into shul and wrap his Tefillin on the arm branded with the tattooed concentration camp number, he was demonstrating the ultimate manifestation of faith and belief in Hashem.

Recently I attended the Bar-Mitzvah of the son of an old dear friend who is the youngest son of a Holocaust survivor. He and his son, the Bar Mitzvah boy, had the dual honour of having their father and grandfather attend the Bar mitzvah and even address them.

As a child I knew “Mr. Cohen”, a soft-spoken refined religious Jew of the old school. An amazing Baal Koreh and the father of a close friend. Then I did not know what he had been through in the Lodz ghetto-the ghetto which overtook his hometown, in Auschwitz, and in the other death and slave labour camps where he spent more than 5 years.

Years later he chronicled his experiences in the book “Destined To survive” published by Artscroll, a book from which iron-clad faith in Hashem and in Divine providence resonates from every page.

Since then nearly every time I have spoken with him or heard him speak, he has mentioned the Holocaust. It is clear that the memories of that horrible period never leave him. He is here physically, he is living among us in the year 2013, but more often than not, his mind resides in those anguish filled years of 1939-1945 together with his friends ……… both those who survived and those who didn`t.

At the Bar Mitzvah he got up and spoke about his Holocaust experiences. He pointed out that as Jews whenever we hear about Jews being persecuted or suffering, even in countries that are far off, we should feel compelled to do something about it. If Jews are being bombed in Turkey, we should act. He explained, when we were in the concentration camps being gassed and tortured, we wondered “why are the Jews in America not doing anything?”

He then recalled what it was like to conduct a seder on Pesach night in the concentration camp. He said ”I and several other Chasidic young men sat together in our barrack. We had nothing-no Matza, no Morror, no Hagadah Shel Pesach-nothing. We said the Ma Nishtana to one another and then each of us tried to say over snippets of the Hagada that we remembered by heart”. “I remember” he continued “how, while we were conducting our “Seder” a fellow Jew passed by. Seeing what we were doing he exclaimed “are you all crazy?! You are conducting a Seder? Don`t you realise Hashem has forgotten you?” I replied to him that I believed that our Seder with nothing, no Matza no Morror no Hagadah but nevertheless a Seder performed with self-sacrifice and with love is more beloved in the eyes of Hashem than the Seder being performed in America with Matza, Morror, recitation of the whole Hagada, and fish and meat.

He continued “To us however, such a question as the one asked by that Jew in the concentration camp had never even begun to enter our minds. The training we had received in our homes was so strong that although we had no idea why Hashem was doing this to us, we understood that we don`t understand and we cannot fathom his ways. That being said, we must still believe in him with complete belief. Throughout those harrowing years this was the way I and my likeminded Chaverim felt.

My Sequel

I add, if there is one lesson we must learn from the above conversation, and from the Holocaust generally, it is an awareness of our sacred duty to pass on to our children a faith which will accompany them throughout their lives. Pesach and particularly the Seder night is the occasion par excellence to do this. The more we learn about our faith, the stronger our faith will become and the more we can pass on to our children.

The word הגדה is drawn from the verse והגדת לבנך –“And you shall tell your son”. This is our responsibility. This is our challenge.

Wishing you and your family

חג כשר ושמח

J. Rubinstein (Rabbi)
 

Mon, 26/06/17 | 2 Tammuz 5777

 Shabbat Korach

Shabbat begins at 9:27pm

Candle lighting is between 7:56 pm and 8:05 pm

Shabbat ends 11:00 pm


SHABBAT SHALOM

 

 

 

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