web analytics
April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Irena’s Vow Offers Hope

Share Button

 


Over the years, I have been to many, many theatrical productions, most in Toronto, some in Israel and of course, in New York – on Broadway, off-Broadway, and even off-off Broadway.  At  times I  have been entertained, amused,  moved, and educated  by what I have seen ( and  on the negative side, sometimes  bored or disgusted or angered)  but I don’t think that I have ever been  imbued with  a much needed sense of hope.

 

            That was until I saw  a performance of Irena’s Vow, (now showing at the Walter Kerr Theater in Manhattan). I actually walked out a bit more hopeful about the future of my children and grandchildren, living in a world exploding with putrid anti-Semitism and malignant anti-Zionism.

 

            I grew up the child of Jewish Holocaust survivors from Poland, and was all too aware at a very young age of how my grandparents, uncles, aunts and numerous young cousins – probably 50 of them – were murdered by Jew- hating Nazis – and Poles. My mother’s only brother, Isaac, who was blond, almost successfully walked  out of the Bendziner Ghetto but was pointed out to the Nazi guard by a former classmate, a Polish Catholic. He was shot in the back and his young life ended.  I guesstimated that he was 22 years old. 

 

            My playmates,  survivors’ kids like myself, had similar stories of mindless mass murder of family, young and old – because they were Jews.

 

            That and a  very thorough Jewish education that included the history of the Jewish people in exile, colored my view of the gentile world, with the result that  despite being raised in a country, that like the US,  one was presumed “innocent  until proven guilty” – my “default” view  was  that all non-Jews were Jew haters -  until proven otherwise. 

 

            After all, it wasn’t so many years earlier that a Canadian government official, no doubt educated, proper, and well-mannered – in advising the government about taking in Jewish refugees, declared, “None are too many.”

 

            Seeing “the enemy” everywhere you look can be scary, burdensome and soul-draining, but that has been my reality ever since I realized what the numbers branded on my mother’s arms  - and on the  arms of most of the grownups I knew – meant.

 

            And current events  of the last few years  in Israel,  the Middle East,  Europe and  North  America – basically everywhere on this planet – have only cemented my ingrained  negative view of  the non-Jewish world.

 

            However,   Irena’s Vow surprisingly penetrated my unwanted but existential armor of gloom, and gave me a glimmer of hope and optimism.

 

             Though intellectually, I knew that there were and are righteous gentiles,  good and kind and  altruistic people who harbor no ill towards me or anyone because of race and religion, a skeptical inner voice whispers to me to be wary, that there must be an ulterior motive to their  loving-kindness. As much as I want to silence this  gloomy voice  of doom, to be free of  the  icy  grip it has on my psyche,  I cannot let go – for I know deep in my soul that it is the voice of my murdered ancestors,  trying to ensure my survival.

 

As I watched the performance, I for the first time got insight as to why a young Polish Catholic girl risked everything, her safety, her security, her reputation, and her life- to save Jews she barely knew.  Young Irena, a nurse, witnesses a brutal Nazi massacre of Jewish women and children, and vows to save lives if she can – because not doing so is morally unacceptable to her. She does not see race, religion or ethnicity – she just sees human beings, who have a right and the desire to life – as she does.

 

The baby-boomer-aged Tovah Feldshue, who I saw in the play “Yentel” over three decades ago in the title role -convincingly portrays the 20 something Irena and creates a very real and believable character that allows the audience to understand how  the real life Irena did what she did-  successfully hide 12 Jews, including a new born infant-  in the basement of the Nazi commandant she was forced to housekeep for.  Ironically, the baby owes his very existence to the Catholic Irena’s plea to his parents to not abort their  pregnancy, a choice they  heartbrokenly thought was necessary to save themselves and the other  hiding Jews. Irena then realizes that an abortion is the lesser of two evils, and agrees to help them – but her message of faith and hope changes their minds.

 

Years later when the baby,  a grown  man living in Israel, shows up at Irena’s home in the States  to invite her to his son’s bar-mitzvah – and  tells a disbelieving Irena,  who has only one child, a daughter- that she  is his mother – he explains that he has two- the one who gave birth to him and one who gave him his life.  With many in he audience, loudly weeping, I emotionally understood the  dictum that I intellectually knew – that he who saves a life – saves a world.


 


Knowing that a young gentile – with a lot to lose – nonetheless  selflessly took it upon herself  to save  strangers’ lives – because they were lives – left me feeling that there were others like her – perhaps more than I would ever believe – and that has  at least quieted, if not silenced  the cynical voice that history  created in my  soul.        

Share Button

About the Author:


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.

No Responses to “Irena’s Vow Offers Hope”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Israeli soldiers closed off the area near where a terror attack occurred  near Hevron on Passover eve, in search of the terrorists.
Netanyahu: PA Incitement Caused Pre-Passover Terror Attack
Latest Sections Stories
Tali Hill, a beneficiary of the Max Factor Family Foundation.

The plan’s goal is to provide supportive housing to 200 individuals with disabilities by the year 2020.

Yeshiva Day School of Las Vegas’s deans, Rabbi Moshe Katz and Rabbi Zev Goldman, present award to Educator of the Year, Rabbi Michoel Paris.

Despite being one of the fastest-growing Jewish communities in the U.S. – the estimated Jewish population is 70-80,000 – Las Vegas has long been overlooked by much of the Torah world.

She was followed by the shadows of the Six Million, by the ever so subtle awareness of their vanished presence.

Pesach is so liberating (if you excuse the expression). It’s the only time I can eat anywhere in the house, guilt free! Matzah in bed!

Now all the pain, fear and struggle were over and they were home. Yuli was safe and free, a hero returned to his land and people.

While it would seem from his question that he is being chuzpadik and dismissive, I wonder if its possible, if just maybe, he is a struggling, confused neshama who actually wants to come back to the fold.

I agree with the letter writer that a shadchan should respectfully and graciously accept a negative response to a shidduch offer.

Alternative assessments are an extremely important part of understanding what students know beyond the scope of tests and quizzes.

Your husband seems to have experienced what we have described as the Ambivalent Attachment.

The goal of the crusade is to demonize and hurt Israel.

The JUMP program at Hebrew Academy was generously sponsored by Evelyn and Dr. Shmuel Katz.

More Articles from Cheryl Kupfer
Kupfer-032814

A young lady in her early 20’s, “Sarah” was redt to “Shlomie” a boy from her home town who learned in an out-of-town yeshiva. The families know each other well, which in today’s shidduch scene is a big plus – since it was therefore unlikely the kids would “fall in” due to misinformation and misinterpretations.

Kupfer-031414

I came to the conclusion a long time ago that I have to do what is right for me – as long as it’s “ halachically kosher” and doesn’t negatively impact on others – and not worry too much about what others think.

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and that is precisely what almost always happens in situations where a reference knew someone had serious but hidden emotional issues, but did not reveal the information to the person making inquiries.

Time never stood still for anyone – why would I be the exception? In my hubris, I thought that somehow I would live forever – and I suspect we all have secretly felt that way, even though we know it’s a fantasy.

One can argue that forgetting something on a regular basis is a sign of advancing age and it’s time to for a neurological evaluation, but based on the number of young people who need to replace a lost smart phone (too bad it’s not smart enough to warn its owner that that they have become separated – or is there an app for that too?), I safely can say that losing “stuff” cuts across the generations.

For quite a few days in late December, Toronto was transformed into a breathtaking – literally and figuratively – frigid winter wonderland, where every twig, leaf, car door, and outdoor wire and cable was totally encased in ice. When the sun shone the landscape was blindingly brilliant as if billions of diamonds had been glued to everything the eye could see.

Outside is a winter-white wonderland replete with dazzling trees, wires, and sidewalks seemingly wrapped in glittery silver foil. It’s quite lovely to look at, which is about all I can do since I’m stuck indoors. Icicle-laden tree branches are bent and hunch-backed by the frozen heaviness of their popsicle-like burden, and the voices squawking from the battery-operated transistor radio I am listening to are warning people not to go out since walkways and roads are extremely slippery, and there is real danger from falling trees.

The necessity of speaking up when you “have a hunch” applies even more when it comes to shidduchim. One little girl did just that – she said something – and I was fortunate enough to be in town for the very joyful, lively wedding that resulted from her speaking up.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/irenas-vow-offers-hope/2009/04/22/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: