web analytics
March 3, 2015 / 12 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Six Thousand Miles And Nine Pairs Of Shoes Later: An Interview with Professor William Helmreich

William Helmreich

William Helmreich

Any chance they will one day see a wider audience?

It’s interesting you mention that because the fellow I was talking to told me that if I put the interviews together in the form of a pamphlet, it would probably be widely distributed in the yeshiva world. So when all this dies down – this book is only out four weeks and is already going into a second printing – I’m going to turn my attention to that because I really feel these interviews should find a wider audience especially because there’s so much revisionism that goes on in the Orthodox community.

For example, in the second chapter of The World of the Yeshiva, I write about the attempt to start a college in the mid-40s. I got hold of documents from the Board of Ed from New York State that indicated that Chaim Berlin and Torah Vodaath – Rabbi Hutner and Rabbi Mendelowitz – wanted to start a college to counter Yeshiva University’s influence on their community. They got together a charter and spent $150,000 on it and a year later in 1946 they got approval for this college – called the American Hebrew Theological University.

I have a lot of information about this that I did not put in the book. I probably want to attach that as an addendum. There’s a lot of stuff that I didn’t put in the book. When it was published, Rabbi Moshe Sherer, who was the head of Agudah for a long time, said to me, “We thank you for what you wrote; we thank you even more for what you didn’t write.”

In addition to writing the first in-depth work on American yeshivot, you also wrote Against All Odds, the first sociological study of Holocaust survivors in America. The book’s subject matter is arguably very important due to the common phenomenon today of people blaming their past for their problems in life. If there ever was a population, though, that could have justifiably complained or blamed circumstances for not being able to function, Holocaust survivors would be it. But, as you write, they largely didn’t. They bit their lips and rebuilt their lives.

Well, I think we don’t always have a lot of control over what happens to us but we do have control over how we deal with it. A lot of the survivors were damaged. My statistical study based on a random sample of survivors indicates that 15,000 of the 140,000 survivors who came here were seriously damaged. Now that’s not small potatoes, but it’s also important to understand that 125,000 managed to go on with their lives.

It has to do with a fundamental attitude. I think today, as our society has grown more comfortable materially, we don’t make the same demands nor do we have the same expectations of people that we had then. The truth of the matter is we have so much therapy available that it’s almost like we have too much therapy. It’s almost like we’re always trying to find an excuse for somebody who does something wrong rather than hold him accountable for it.

And there’s a natural tendency if you have a choice between being made to pay for what you did wrong and not having to pay, you would rather not. And if you’re given the opportunity to blame other forces, you will.

Survivors didn’t have that kind of opportunity…. And it’s also not clear that talking about your suffering really clears your head. People say, “Oh, you’re just repressing.” Well, maybe it’s better to repress. You go through your whole life, you repress, you don’t think about it too much, you die, and you’ve lived a relatively satisfying life. Or, you wallow in self-pity and you can’t go on. I think today people are much more self-indulgent.

About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and author of “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape” (Brenn Books).


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Six Thousand Miles And Nine Pairs Of Shoes Later: An Interview with Professor William Helmreich

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the US Congress in Washington on May 24 2011.
Live: Watch Netanyahu’s Speech in Congress [video]
Latest Indepth Stories
Red Line Obama

UN inspectors were flabbergasted when Iran allowed them full unfettered access to All nuclear sites

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressing Congress.

Obama’s real problem is that he knows Netanyahu has more credibility on the Iran issue than he does.

Silwan, in the eastern part of Jerusalem, founded by Yemenite Jews in 1881

Kristof’s op-ed “The Human Stain” was flawed and wrong; more than anti-Israel, it was anti-Semitic.

Hur and Aharon holding up Moshe's hands as Joshua battled Amalek.

“Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey after you left Egypt-how undeterred by fear of G-d”

Stalin’s plan for the Soviet’s “final solution of the Jewish question” was totally assimilating them

Many Jews oppose the speech fearing it will further erode relations between Israel & US. I disagree.

The University of Georgia Student Government Association called for more investment in Israel.

Without an alliance comparable to ISIS, Al Qaida & Iran, militant Islam will conquer the Middle East

Ultimately, Esther, Netanyahu, and we, the Jewish people, must and will rely on the true King, God, for our salvation from this genocidal threat.

Netanyahu addresses a clear, present & lethal threat to the US/Israel/WORLD; NOT political bickering

Buried in the tax-returns of the JCF is millions of dollars funneled to NIF in the last few years.

Bibi’s speech to Congress will bring respect and honor to the Jewish Nation from the US & the world

Obama & Putin have handwriting/signature clues indicating differences between public & private life

It’s time for a new Jewish policy regarding Ramallah, NOT just because of the yarmulke incident

“GETT’s” being screened for Israeli Rabbinical Court judges at their annual convention.

If Jackson were alive he’d denounce Democratic party’s silence towards virulent anti-Semitism

More Articles from Elliot Resnick

I said to myself, “This story has got to be told. We’re losing this generation of World War II and if we don’t listen to them now, we’ve lost it.”

Nouril concluded he had no choice: He had to become more observant.

I was very pro-Israel, I was very proud of being Jewish, and I was living in New York at the time as a single man in my 20s and I was just looking for a little bit more.

A school voucher means the state is giving you a voucher to send your kid to whatever school you want. That might be problematic as far church-state issues are concerned.

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

To many Orthodox Jews the issue is “Permitted & Prohibited;” “Right & Wrong” barely considered,

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/six-thousand-miles-and-nine-pairs-of-shoes-later-an-interview-with-professor-william-helmreich/2013/12/04/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: