What did your father do once released from the military?
He was a wholesale food distributor in Philadelphia. He delivered a line of packaged soups and gravies out of the trunk of his car, and over time his business grew and he became successful.
He was very active in many community projects such as the Jewish day school and the mikvah in Philadelphia. However, he felt that his crowning achievement was serving as president of the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia. As I mentioned, he served in this capacity for 50 years until his passing this January.
Did he ever return to his homeland?
He returned to Fulda several times as a civilian. In 1987 he attended the dedication of a new synagogue and museum on the site of a former Jewish school. The mayor of Fulda invited all the former Jewish residents of the town for a convocation despite the very vocal objections of the small neo-Nazi element in town. The mayor then quite publicly dis-invited the skinheads. About half the people who were invited actually came. Among other words, the mayor said that Fulda, and by extension Germany, was not asking for forgiveness. The inhumanity that was perpetrated during the Holocaust was too horrible for that. His only hope was that some sort of accommodation could be achieved and dialogue established so that the Germans could feel more deeply what had happened and that the hostility that the Jews surely felt could be somewhat abated with time. According to my father, for many of the attendees, the event went a long way wounds inflicted more than 45 years prior. Of course, the people who came probably were already inclined that way.
Did the war ever make him question his faith?
No, not to my knowledge. He came from a very religious home and was never “angry“ with G-d. As a general statement that was not the German way among the Orthodox. This was a matter of fundamental emunah. One does not complain about G-d’s ways.
Was your father a patriotic man?
I’ll share with you a story in response to that. My father was invited a couple of times to lecture in The Jewish Museum in Berlin, and one time I joined him. He spoke separately in front of two groups of students, a post-graduate group and a large number of high-school students. He was not shy about discussing his boyhood experiences. One student asked him how he felt returning to his home. He answered that America was his home. He had long stopped thinking of Germany in that way. He had been roughly expelled from his former home. I think this fairly demonstrates the direction of his patriotism. These students were given his life story before they met him and researched the historical background of the events in his life, so were prepared to ask him meaningful questions At the end of the seminar an Aryan looking gentleman stood up and told my father “I’ll never forget this day as long as I live.” This was after my father had said, “I am an American. America is my home. Germany only gave my family grief.”
What was your father’s view on Israel?
He was a disciple of the Gedolei Yisroel in this respect. He identified very closely with the Yishuv and always prayed for the welfare of the community there. He was also involved in various projects there, especially supporting Sharre Tzedek Hospital.
What would you like our readers to remember about your father?
On a purely personal level, I can say that he was very self-aware and courageous – in the true meaning of the word. He never took himself too seriously. In the end, I think anyone would say that he went remarkably far in fulfilling his potential. This was his aim in life.Ita Yankovich
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