web analytics
July 3, 2015 / 16 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

A Father’s Shining Life


The 14th of Sivan (May 27) marks the tenth yahrzeit of my father, Zechariah Schwarzberg, z”l, a man who experienced the worst humanity had to offer and responded with the best the human spirit could muster.

The only member of his large family not to have been murdered by the Nazis, he survived the Warsaw Ghetto uprising only to be imprisoned in Maidenak, Skarzysko, and Buchenwald.

After the war he served as a cantor in several European countries – Switzerland, France, and Italy, among others – before emigrating to the United States in 1954.

From the furnace that was Europe he built a shining life in America. Within a few years of his arrival he had learned a new language, become a husband and father, embarked on a career in real estate and established himself as a familiar and respected presence in the Orthodox community of Essex County, New Jersey.

He epitomized the term Family Man. Robbed so cruelly and at such a tender age of everyone he held dear – parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins – he doted on his wife and two children, concentrating exclusively on their needs, their comfort, their well-being.

He would rearrange his business appointments at a moment’s notice to accommodate the schedules – and often the whims – of family members. Rarely did anyone in the family have to walk to a store or wait for a bus or a train; he insisted on driving everyone himself – otherwise, he said, he would worry.

The family lived just a few blocks from the local yeshiva, but when his children were younger he took time off from work to drive them to school every morning and back home every afternoon.

Though he was intimately acquainted with mankind’s darkest side, he never lost his faith in God or his love for other people. In his daily life and in his business dealings he refused to distinguish between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jew or between Jew and non-Jew.

Always he had a good word to all and about all. He was incapable of believing the worst about anyone, even when he had reason to suspect it might be true.

Scrupulously honest, he never hesitated to dissuade clients from deals he felt would not be beneficial to them – even when doing so meant a financial loss for him.

The pursuit of money as the focus of one’s life was a concept foreign to his very nature. His favorite aphorism was the verse from Pirkei Avot by which he lived every day of his life: Eizeh hu ashir? Hasameach b’chelko – Who is rich? He who is satisfied with his lot.

He saw no conflict between love of Judaism and love of the State of Israel, and had little patience with Orthodox Jews who did. He knew all too well what happens to defenseless Jews.

His pride in young Jewish soldiers defending a strong Jewish state was deeply felt, as was his gratitude for having been privileged to witness the birth of the first sovereign Jewish commonwealth in two millennia.

When Israel stunned the world in 1967 with its lightning victory in the Six-Day War, my father – then just 22 years removed from the concentration camps – was glued to the radio and the television, following the news as though he himself were riding in a tank or toting an Uzi.

And in a sense he was. This, he told his very young son, was God’s answer to a world that mockingly asked why He had abandoned His people. This was His response to Jews whose faith had vanished in the smoke of Auschwitz. From the ashes of the worst catastrophe in Jewish history, a people who for endless centuries were scattered and scorned and slain, homeless and powerless and friendless, had returned to Israel and now strode the land of their patrimony as battle-tested warriors, blowing the ram’s horn and raising the Star of David at their holiest places.

When Israeli commandos staged the electrifying Entebbe rescue in 1976, my father reacted with unrestrained emotion. “Never in my wildest dreams,” he said, “when the Poles and the Ukrainians and the Germans were spitting and cursing at us, beating us and killing us, could I have imagined that one day – in my lifetime – the world would watch with awe as Jewish soldiers and Jewish pilots flew 2,500 miles, undetected, to rescue Jewish citizens of a Jewish state.”

When in February 1986 Prisoner of Zion Natan Sharansky, at long last permitted to leave the Soviet Union, was greeted upon his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport by the Israeli prime minister, foreign minister and a host of assorted rabbis and other dignitaries, my father phoned me to say he was watching the ceremony on the news.

“Can you understand,” he asked, his voice breaking, “what Israel means for the Jewish people? Imagine if there had been a country my father and my mother and the rest of the six million could have escaped to and where they would have been welcomed with such open arms.”

The highest compliment my father could pay someone was to say he was tzu Gott und tzu leit (to God and to people) – meaning that person conducted himself properly in matters both spiritual and temporal. Which is precisely how anyone who knew him – who experienced, even fleetingly, his kindness, generosity and good nature – would describe Zechariah Schwarzberg.

His values and legacy live on in his wife, his two children and five grandchildren – the youngest of whom never knew him but proudly and lovingly carries his name.

About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at jmaoz@jewishpress.com.


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 “A Father’s Shining Life”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
UN Human Rights Council
UN HRC Condemns Israel (But Not Hamas) for War Crimes
Latest Indepth Stories
Jelgava Synagogue, Latvia

Latvia, July 4, 1941 they forced many Jews in the shul putting it on fire; everyone was burned alive

United Nations Building, New York City

There’s blood on the reporters’ hands AND New Israel Fund for funding groups feeding lies to the UN

Zuckerman-070315

Respect & appreciation for our country is not only a civic value but an essential Jewish one as well

wedding cake

When words lose meaning, the world becomes an Orwellian dystopia; a veritable Tower of Babel

Israel, like the non-radical Islamic world. will be happy see the ISIS beheaded for once.

Kids shouldn’t have “uninstructed” Internet access, better to train them how to use it responsibly

What if years from now, IS were to control substantial territory? What world havoc would that wreak?

Rambam writes the verse’s double term refers to 2 messiahs: first King David; 2nd the final Mashiach

The Gaza flotilla has been rightfully and legally blocked by Israel’s Navy, with greetings from Bibi

The president described the attack as “an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress…”

“The only [candidate] that’s going to give real support to Israel is me,” said the 69-year-old Trump.

And whereas at the outset the plan was that Iran would have to surrender most of its centrifuges, it will now be able to retain several thousand.

Now oil independent, US no longer needs its former strategic alliances with Gulf States-or Israel

In addition to the palace’s tremendous size it was home to the “hanging gardens,” which were counted among the seven wonders of the ancient world.

More Articles from Jason Maoz
Zechariah Schwarzberg, z”l

Though intimately acquainted with mankind’s darkest side, he never lost his faith&love in God or man

Front-Page-051515

Some of the president’s defenders took to arguing that the overwhelming majority of German military personnel interred in Bitburg were regular Wehrmacht soldiers who died on the battlefield and likely were not involved in atrocities against civilians.

Note also the response to the speech by the top Democrats in the House and Senate, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, both of whom have been outspoken in their criticism of Netanyahu’s upcoming visit.

The New York State comptroller manages the state’s $180.7 billion pension fund, audits the spending practices of all state agencies and local governments, oversees the New York State and Local Retirement System, reviews the New York State and City budgets, and approves billions in State contracts and spending.

While not all criticism of Israel stemmed from anti-Semitism, Podhoretz contends the level of animosity towards Israel rises exponentially the farther left one moved along the spectrum.

When you grow up in a home where your parents went through what my parents went through, you realize that life has to be meaningful. You have to be there for other people.

“It’s a lousy column and a dishonest one,” Halberstam wrote. “So close it. Or you will end up just as shabby as Safire.”

Wye would be seen to have set the groundwork for the creation of a Palestinian state

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/a-fathers-shining-life-2/2010/05/26/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: