web analytics
November 1, 2014 / 8 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



I Am Proud

Ita-101912-Plane

As I approached the home of Irving and Miriam Borenstein in the Mill Basin section of Brooklyn, two things became clear: the pride they feel at being Jewish and their joy at living in America. On their front lawn are large American and Israeli flags with a plaque in front which reads:

Irving and Miriam

Never forget the six million murdered in the Holocaust and the three thousand murdered on 9/11.

May G-d remember them for the good with the other righteous of the world.

Inside their home the theme continues; their walls are covered with pictures, souvenirs and memorabilia related to Israel.

Where did this sense of pride come from? Join me as we learn a little bit about Miriam and Irving’s backgrounds and hear their incredible stories.

Irving: I was born in America in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. It was like the “Yerushalyim of New York.” I went to yeshiva there and then to Harron High school. My father owned a shomer Shabbos grocery store. When I was 16 he passed away; my mother continued to run the store and at some point I began to take responsibility for it, but ultimately it wasn’t for me. I studied and excelled in electrical engineering, which helped me when I was in the military.

Miriam: I was born in Czechoslovakia in the Carpathian mountain region. I have been living in the states for 67 years. Carpathia became a hostile region to live in once the Hungarians took over. First, they put all the Jews in a ghetto. I was in a ghetto called Izah for 6 weeks before they transported us to Auschwitz.

The Borensteins in Germany after the war.

Mr. Borenstein, when did you join the service?

I was drafted into the army when I was 18, like so many others. I could have easily gotten a 4-D (a deferment) since I was a rabbinical student in yeshiva at the time but I didn’t feel that was right.

Were you scared to join the army?

No. I was happy to go. I had no fear. My mother wasn’t too happy about it but I was a strong-minded kid and running the family grocery store was not for me.

What are your thoughts about those who avoided service due to religious observance?

I am a Zionist. I told people you cannot hide behind the Torah. In fact, the Torah demands that we go and help our fellow brethren.

What was your position in the military?

Luckily, I was not in man-to-man combat. I was involved in the anti-aircraft artillery outfit. Basically, I was a utility repair soldier.

Were you ever injured?

I was hurt badly when a car near me blew up; I was unconscious for a while. I was hospitalized for 5 months in London with a fractured skull and malfunctioning kidneys. Eventually I healed, and those of us who were feeling better were given office jobs, so the office clerks could go fight.

Did you experience any anti-Semitism in the military?

Not really. I am as strong as an ox and growing up in Brownsville you knew how to defend yourself. I recall one incident where a non-Jewish man and I were reaching for the same butter during mealtime and I got it first. He said, “Just like a (expletive) Jew!” I flipped over the table and that was the end of that.

In the DP camp in 1945. Irving and Miriam are on the far right.

Were you able to be observant in the army?

Not really. It was hard. I did manage to daven with tefillin every day. One day my captain was inspecting the barracks and I was standing in the corner engrossed in my davening. He asked a fellow soldier what I was doing and when they told him I was praying he said, “If anybody bothers him they are going to have to deal with me!”

What about keeping kosher and Shabbos?

Impossible. The only thing I could do was stay away from meats. As for Shabbos, that was out of the question. The first time I drove a car on Shabbos, I thought it was going to blow up. They did let me go home for the holidays when I was in basic training.

Were there other Jews stationed in your outfit?

It was a 25% Jewish outfit with mostly New Yorkers. This is maybe why anti-Semitism wasn’t so prevalent. I did have to tell one Southerner that Jews don’t have horns though!

Miriam, would you mind sharing some of your story with our readers?

As I said when the Germans came to Carpathia we were moved into a ghetto and then a short time later we were sent to Auschwitz. We had no idea what was coming. We were counted and separated by gender and then by age and health (the strong and the weak). I arrived with my mother and we were quickly separated. I later found out that she was selected by Dr. Mangele to go straight to the crematorium. I was in Auschwitz for 3 months before I was liberated and then shipped to a concentration camp near Landsburg, Germany.

With Miriam’s family, Irving and Miriam are on the far right, the woman in the center is Miriam’s sister.

How did you and your husband meet?

It was after Auschwitz in the DP camp in Munich. We met in June 1945, a month after I was liberated, and we were married on January 10, 1946. I actually came to the United States as a war bride, and spoke only Yiddish.

After the war, my husband was very active in the DP camps and tried to help survivors by giving lectures and advising them on what to do next, on how to go on with their lives. My roommates and I attended one of his lectures and later we began talking and talking and we just hit it off. People started commenting on our frequency of talking and it made me uncomfortable. I had been raised in an Orthodox home with Orthodox values about the separation of boys and girls. Then Irving was gone and I didn’t hear from him for six weeks. He had gone to London to try to find my father whom we had heard was there trying to earn a living since our family had been separated.

Irving, how did you find your future father-in-law?

I went from shteible to shteible looking for him in London. Someone told me that there is an old man with a beard living in a bombed out house crying that he left his wife and daughter in Europe, so I went to visit him, and sure enough it was Miriam’s father. I also managed to track down her sister living in Belgium.

Where were the two of you married?

Irving Borenstein in Williamsburg in 1947.

Irving: I needed permission from President Eisenhower to propose to Miriam since she was a civilian. In the end the mayor of the town of Furth married us but it was a civil ceremony not under a chuppa. I returned to my outfit the next day and my comrades were shocked to see me. They asked, “didn’t you just get married, why are you not with your wife?!” They did not understand that according to Jewish law we were not married.

Your wife mentioned that you held lectures for survivors, what were they about?

I had the opportunity to meet with many survivors. I had made arrangements with the Chief Rabbi of London to distribute siddurim in camps. We didn’t call them displaced persons camp; we called them Ohr Chadash camp.

I kept on telling them to believe and have hope. Somehow they must forget and that I knew it would be rough. Many of the survivors I met looked up to Stalin and wanted to return to Russia. I tried to tell them to go to Palestine.

What do you say to those who lost their faith after all they had suffered?

I don’t judge. I once saw three Jews beating up another Jew (just like Moshe Rabbeinu in the Chumash). I ran to stop the fight, but after they informed me that this man was a Kapo helping the Germans, all I could do was walk away. I cannot judge.

Irving, was there ever a time when you were angry at G-d?

No. I got older when I saw the camps. I was too angry with the Germans to be angry at G-d.

Miriam, have you ever been back to your hometown?

No. I was sent to a DP camp in Munich. I did join the March of the Living in 1994. I had no connection to any of my relatives for a long time. I was in my 20’s when I came to America and I felt alone and with no direction because I didn’t know anybody. Thank G-d for my husband’s sister who was like a blood sister to me and showed me the ropes.

How do your kids feel about your experiences?

Irving: They are proud. My daughter in fact, wrote her college thesis on my war experience.

Miriam: Stories remain stories. Nobody can escape the hardships of life. People often told us that we should publish a book based on our life, but I feel that we all have stories.

Irving, do you keep in touch with any other veterans?

No. Most were not Shomer Shabbos, but I am a member of the Jewish War Veterans.

What message would you give to your readers?

Irving: Never give up and always have bitachon. I am proud to be from shevet Levi and I think all Jews should be proud of their heritage.

Miriam: Even though you experience challenges in life, you still need to have hope and have feelings for others.

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.

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 “I Am Proud”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Yehudah Glick on the Temple Mount.
Yehuda Glick’s Condition Stabilizing, “He Was Very Lucky” (1:00 PM)
Latest Sections Stories
Collecting-History-logo

Undoubtedly the greatest manifestation of his antipathy was his infamous declaration: “[Expletive] the Jews. They don’t vote for us anyway.”

West-Coast-logo

Chaplain Winkler along with the other OJCB chaplains work tirelessly on a daily basis to ensure that all of the Jewish prisoners religious needs are met.

Eller-103114-Busy-In-Brooklyn

“I work around the Jewish calendar, always trying to think of creative spins,” noted Chani.

“Without a high school diploma, you couldn’t work as a garbage collector in New York City; you couldn’t join the Air Force. Yet a quarter of our kids still walked out of high school and never came back.”
– Amanda Ridley

My mother-in-law is totally devoted to her daughters and their children. Her sons’ children on the other hand are treated like second-class citizens.

The Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews is designed to tell the whole thousand-year story of the Jews in Poland.

This past summer was a powerful one for the Jewish people. I will always remember where I was on June 12th when I found out that Gilad, Eyal and Naftali were kidnapped. I will always remember the look on my sister’s face on June 30th when she told me that they were found. I will […]

Avromi often put other people’s interests before his own: he would not defend people whom he believed were guilty (even if they were willing to pay him a lot of money).

The Presbyterian Church USA voted to divest from three companies that do business with Israel.

How can I help my wife learn to say “no,” and understand that her first priority must be her husband and family?

My eyes skimmed an article on page 1A. I was flabbergasted. I read the title again. Could it be? It had good news for the Miami Jewish community.

Students in early childhood, elementary, and middle school were treated to an array of hands-on projects to create sukkah decorations such as wind chimes, velvet posters, sand art, paper chains, and more.

More Articles from Ita Yankovich
Yankovitch-030714-Houston

Wouldn’t it be great if you had a chavrusa working with you, guiding and helping you in your work environment?

Yankovitch-071913-uniform

In a time when service to one’s community seems to be a forgotten ideal, it is our pleasure to continue sharing with you the stories of those men and women who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.

The Jewish Press recently sat down with Chaya Lipschutz, a Brooklyn woman who saved the life of a stranger.

In the past, people used to turn to coffee or orange juice to get through a midday slump, but today, many are turning to power and energy drinks for a quicker and longer-lasting jolt. The power drink industry is booming with projected sales of $9 billion and no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

Every week nearly three million viewers tune into the Bravo cable channel to watch the hit reality franchise “The Real Housewives” – several shows that follow the lives of affluent housewives and professional women residing in several American metropolitan areas (“The Real Housewives of New York,” “The Real Housewives of Los Angeles,” of Miami, of Atlanta, etc.).

Not too many Jewish World War II survivors from Germany can say that they had the distinction of being both interned in a concentration camp and liberating the captives in that same camp. Erwin Weinberg did just that.

Recently I had the opportunity to spend some times with Bernard (Bernie) Walz and get a glimpse of his war experiences.

As I approached the home of Irving and Miriam Borenstein in the Mill Basin section of Brooklyn, two things became clear: the pride they feel at being Jewish and their joy at living in America. On their front lawn are large American and Israeli flags with a plaque in front which reads:

Never forget the six million murdered in the Holocaust and the three thousand murdered on 9/11.

May G-d remember them for the good with the other righteous of the world.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/i-am-proud/2012/10/18/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: