The Celebrate Israel Festival on May 31 at Pier 94, slated to be the largest gathering to date of Israeli-Americans in New York.
Another Shabbat Nachamu has come and gone, but its message should resonate with us throughout the year. More than just an opportunity to go away for the weekend or enjoy a live concert on Saturday night, Shabbat Nachamu means that regardless of what tragedy has befallen our people, the Jewish nation will live on.
My husband’s grandfather, Joseph Hoffman, did not just physically survive the Nazi regime, he did so with his faith intact. There always seems to be an angle in every survivor’s story, a miracle that helped get him or her through another day until liberation. Zaidy had always been reluctant to discuss his experiences during the Holocaust with his children and grandchildren. He felt it wasn’t necessary for every detail to be known.
As he got older, though, he became more willing to talk, and even revealed an old sepia wallet-sized picture of his first family. His wife, Tzipporah, is dressed in a flowery housecoat, holding a baby girl, Rochel, who is wrapped in a white blanket, her hair in pigtails. Standing next to their mother are two little boys, Yehuda and Sender, in short pants and without shoes. Yehuda is wearing suspenders and a cap perched rakishly on top of his head, an impish dimple creasing his cheek. Sender, his curly hair still uncut before his upsherin, is holding a toy wooden sword and wearing a more solemn expression.
Once, when we were visiting, I asked him what it was that helped get him through the war. Zaidy smiled slightly and in his mixture of English, Hebrew and Yiddish told me about Shabbat Nachamu 1943.
He had been laboring in a type of mobile work unit since 1941, and two years into the war, with no end in sight, he was feeling “very bad” and thinking about his family and future. The Nazi commander, who was well versed in Jewish tradition, gathered all the prisoners together and proceeded to give them a Shabbat Nachamu drasha. He mocked the haftarah where the Jews are promised their suffering will soon end and said to the wretched group standing forlornly in front of him, “Nachamu, Nachamu, Ami? This war is not ending anytime soon.”
Zaidy is still a stubborn man, and I’m not surprised when he says that when he heard those words he found the inner strength to continue the backbreaking labor of digging railroads, so determined was he to prove the Nazi wrong. One morning, in November 1944, after sleeping overnight in a grain silo, his group of two hundred men woke up to realize the Nazis were no longer guarding them. They cautiously opened the door, and there, marching down the road, were the Russians.
For two weeks Zaidy walked home to Mamarush, Czechoslovakia, without food or provisions. When he reached his small town, he found the place Judenrein and the Soviets in charge. The Soviets tried to conscript him for forced labor, but he ran away that night to Prague. There he met up with a group of Jewish refugees and for the first time in many years was able to put on tefillin, daven with a minyan and keep kosher.
When I asked him what was it like to keep Shabbat again, after all that he had gone through, I thought he would speak about conflicting emotions and arguments with God. But Zaidy simply said, “I felt like ah Yid.”
Later, at the end of 1945, he married his second wife, Faiga, and while languishing in the DP Camps waiting to immigrate to Israel, Faiga gave birth to my mother-in-law, Nechuma. Nechuma eventually married and had five children, the youngest of whom is my husband, Jacob. Jacob and I married in March 2006; just about sixty years after Zaidy had the strength to remarry and started a new family. A year and a half later, my first daughter, Faiga Shaindel, was born, and two years after that, we had a second child, a boy.
Zaidy serving as sandek at Yehuda Aryeh’s bris
My husband and I had discussed that if this baby were a boy we would name him after Zaidy’s oldest son, Yehuda Aryeh. Nobody had been named after any of Zaidy’s four children. They had died alongside their mother in Auschwitz on the second day of Shavout 1944, and I felt it was time to rectify that omission.
About the Author: Pnina Baim holds a B.S. in Health and Nutrition from Brooklyn College and an MS.edu from Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Program. She works as a nutritionist, a certified lactation consultant, a home organizer, and in her free time writes as much as possible. She is the author of the Young Adult novels, Choices, A Life Worth Living (featured on Dansdeals and Jew In The City) and a how-to book for the Orthodox homemaker, Sing While You Work. The books are available at amazon.com. Pnina is available for speaking engagements and personal consulting. Contact her at email@example.com.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
During my spiritual journey I discovered G-d spoke to man only once, to the Jewish people at Sinai
20 years after the great Ethiopian aliyah, we must treat them like everyone else; no better or worse
Connecting Bamidbar&Shavuot is simple-A world without Torah is midbar; with Torah a blessed paradise
She credited success to “mini” decisions-Small choices building on each other leading to big changes
Shavuot 1915, 200000 Jews were expelled; amongst the largest single expulsions since Roman times
Realizing there was no US military threat, Iran resumed, expanded & accelerated its nuclear program
“Enlightened Jews” who refuse to show chareidim the tolerance they insist we give to Arabs sicken me
Somewhat surprisingly, the Vatican’s unwelcome gesture was diametrically at odds with what President Obama signaled in an interview with the news outlet Al Arabiya.
The recent solid victory of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party produced something very different.
The reaction is so strong that nine times out of ten, parents engage in some form of coping mechanism before arriving at a level of acceptance of a special-needs diagnosis.
“…his neshamah reached out to us to have the zechus of Torah learning to take with him on his final journey.”
The gap isn’t between Israeli and American Jews-it’s between American Jews and the rest of the world
Gardening can be a healthy, wholesome activity for the whole family.
First, sit down with your helpers and a pen and paper and break the jobs down into small parts.
“OMG, it’s so cute, you’re so cute, everything is so cute.”
Does standing under the chuppah signal the end of our dream of romance and beautiful sunsets?
Everyone has a weakness. For some people it is the inability to walk past a sales rack without dropping a few hundred dollars. For others, it’s the inability to keep their house organized.
The world sees the hand of God through us, and does not like it.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/zaidys-comfort-and-inspiration/2011/08/24/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: