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Daughter of Telz: Rebbetzin Rivkah Bloch Hacarmi (1925-2012)

1945: Rivkah Bloch in Europe after the war

1945: Rivkah Bloch in Europe after the war

During the final years of the war, Rivkah was often left to face adversity totally alone. Sometimes non-Jews in isolated areas would pity her and shelter her for a few days, but mostly she had to hide in barns, cowsheds and pits and forage for food in garbage heaps. Since Nazi sympathizers were swift to alert the police to her presence, the Gestapo almost caught her many times. Once she burrowed deep into a pile of hay to hide, concealing herself just a fraction deeper than the jabbing and poking of her pursuers who finally abandoned their search. Another time she huddled, trembling behind a bed, while the police searched the house of her host. Their daughter covered for her by sitting on the bed, where she busied herself with some sewing or knitting. On another occasion, when the police came to the front door of a house where Rivkah sheltered, she was unceremoniously pushed out the back door into a snow-covered potato field. Famished, she ate some raw potatoes to still her hunger and spent the night without shelter. Even more traumatic than the torments of hunger and cold was her isolation, the heaviest burden she had to bear. Believing that she was probably the last Jew to survive, she pleaded with the Almighty not to leave her all alone in the world.

On the far left is the Rebbetzin of R. Yosef Leib. Rav Zalman and Rav Avraham Yitzhak Bloch are clearly seen in the center. Rivkah appears in the front row, second from the right, as a small girl. The gentleman with the top hat is Rabbi Binyamin Denis, Rivkah's maternal grandfather. His rebbetzin is seated to his right. If you can identify other people in the photo, please email us.

When wartime finally came to an end, Rivkah’s hopes rose. She was ready and eager to approach the Russian liberators and confide in them as they marched proudly through the streets. She was about to tell them that she was a Jewish survivor when she overheard some drunken soldiers bantering gaily among themselves, “How good that Hitler murdered all the Jews, otherwise we would have had to do it!” Silenced by their callousness, Rivkah quickly disappeared into the crowd. Her brief return to Telz in search of family or friends was an equally bitter experience. She rediscovered neighbors of the family who had worked by the Blochs before the war and been well-treated by them. Not only had these gentiles willingly helped to murder the menfolk of her family, but they had taken over the Bloch house as their own.

Although Rivkah’s two surviving siblings in the USA urged her to join them, she was resolved to resume her life in Israel. Her sister, Naomi Bloch Stein, who married Rabbi Pesach Stein zt”l in 1948, and her cousin Chaya Bloch Ausband were the only two Jewish women to survive the war in Ghetto Shavli. Another sister, Shoshana, was brought to America before the war by her chosson, Rav Mordechai Gifter zt”l. However, because Rivkah simply did not wish to live among non-Jews any longer, she joined up with other illegal immigrants who went to Israel via Italy. They landed in the middle of the night on a rickety Maapilim boat in 1946 near Atlit, and luckily the British authorities did not notice their landing.

Twenty-year-old Rivkah recovered her happy disposition and sense of humor in Israel, putting behind her the years when, in her son’s words, “She lived like a hunted animal.” She immediately found work in Tel Aviv because she knew Hebrew so well and stayed briefly with her elderly grandparents, the Denises of Kharkov. In 1950 she married Akivah Hacarmi, a Ponevezh Yeshivah student who had left Pressburg, Bratislava in December 1939 just after his bar mitzvah. To escape the Shoah, he immigrated alone, was raised by close family and firmly rooted himself in Israel. Rav Hacarmi has served as municipal rabbi of Kiryat Shmuel near Haifa for over 60 years and is still active in his community.

Rebbetzin Rivkah and Rav Akiva Hacarmi with a great-grandchild

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1945: Rivkah Bloch in Europe after the war

Rivkah Bloch grew up in Telz (Telsiai), a historic township and renowned Torah center in north-west Lithuania. In 1939 the Jews of Telz numbered about 2,800, some 28 percent of the population. Rivkah’s paternal grandfather Reb Yosef Leib Bloch, (1849-1930) zt”l, also known as Maharil Bloch, was a distinguished personality and a prominent scholar and educator. Besides his position as town rabbi, he headed the great Yeshivah of Telz that his father-in-law Rav Eliezer Gordon, zt”l had founded. Its student body numbered around 400 students in 1900.

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