web analytics
November 29, 2014 / 7 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



Post Holocaust Polish Experiences


Cohen-080814-Sign

Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen sent us this article a number of weeks before he was niftar last month; yehi zichro baruch.

 

Years ago while serving as a rabbi of a shul in Los Angeles, California I was invited to join a group of Orthodox high school seniors on the annual March of the Living in Poland. The students were children from affluent religious homes and many had already been accepted to some of the most prestigious universities in America. My role was to serve as a religious advisor as well as to cull unique experiences for subsequent lectures and articles about the march. The large contingent of about 50 students from yeshivot somewhat fazed the leadership of the march. This was my assumption as we were referred to as the “The Orthos.” Yes, we were categorized as the Orthodox, a somewhat uniquely strange and distinct group.

Traveling to Warsaw on Lot Airlines, we experienced our initial taste of Polish gracious consideration. As we gathered to daven, the airplane staff turned off all the lights so that the plane was in total darkness. No requests to turn on the lights were heeded. To many it was simply shocking to experience such anti-Semitism. In a way it was a foreshadowing of future events.

I had a personal problem. I am a Kohen and therefore could not visit those areas where Kohanim are forbidden to walk. As such, I stayed on the bus during many excursions. One unique experience is worth noting. At Auschwitz the entire group of about 6,000 students and 2,000 adults marched past the notorious “Arbeit Mached Frei” sign into the camp. It was drizzling and I stood by myself reading the sign over and over. Countless Jews were fooled by that sign. They passed the sign and found death rather than freedom. What should I do? I decided I was not to be fooled by such a sign. I didn’t have to walk into the camp. I turned around, and began singing a niggun to myself – and marched back to the bus. Somehow this little feat made me feel proud.

Throughout our weeklong stay in Poland local youngsters made horrible signs when they saw us, such as cutting throats, to drive home their feeling that not enough Jews were murdered. I’m positive they knew not the source of their hatred. It was just part of what they have been taught.

Uncle Joe

During our stay in Poland students traveled in caravans of buses. Each bus had a leader, an assistant and a guard. The guards, who were armed, were from Israel. Our guard shocked me when he mentioned that I was the first rabbi he had ever spoken to. This was a Sabra of about twenty years old. Yet, until he met me, he never spoken to a rabbi.

Our assistant was an older man we called Uncle Joe. One day Joe asked if we could speak privately. He told me that he was a judge in Detroit, Michigan and the bus leader was his niece. His story still generates vivid emotions in me, over twenty years later.

Cohen-080814-MenUncle Joe had been a child during the Shoah. He recalled that at one time he, his parents and brother were living in Belgium. His father came home one day and said that the Germans had ordered all Polish Jews to return to Poland. “Yosel,” he said, “I will no longer be with the family. It is now your responsibility to care for your mother and brother. You have to be the head of the house and protect them.” Uncle Joe told me that at that moment he lost his faith in God. “How could I believe in a God who placed the security of my family in the hands of a ten-year-old child?” Somehow he and his family survived and came to America. They never heard from his father. He hated religion, he told me, and Jewish life. God was simply something that he never even considered.

About the Author: Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, is the author of eight sefarim on Jewish law. His latest, “Jewish Prayer the Right Way” (Urim Publications), is available at Amazon.com and select Judaica stores.


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.

3 Responses to “Post Holocaust Polish Experiences”

  1. GOD BLESS YOU ISRAEL+IDF.
    GOD LOVES YOU ISRAEL+IDF.
    GOD PROTECT ISRAEL+IDF.
    WE LOVE YOU ISRAEL+IDF.
    WE STAND WITH YOU ISRAEL+IDF.
    FOREVER

  2. GOD BLESS YOU ISRAEL+IDF.
    GOD LOVES YOU ISRAEL+IDF.
    GOD PROTECT ISRAEL+IDF.
    WE LOVE YOU ISRAEL+IDF.
    WE STAND WITH YOU ISRAEL+IDF.
    FOREVER

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry .
NYT Ignores US Condemnation of PA Incitement, Prints Info on Ferguson Cop
Latest Sections Stories
West-Coast-logo

Lester Crown, a perennial member of the Forbes 400 list since 1982 and founder of the prestigious Covenant Foundation, took the stage in Washington, D.C. before a room of high-powered dignitaries, philanthropists, and innovators.

Collecting-History-logo

Not as well known, however, is Keller’s involvement with Jewish and Israeli communities.

Creativity without clarity is not sufficient for writing. I am eternally thankful to Hashem for his gift to me.

This core idea of memory is very difficult to fully comprehend; however, it is essential.

Sometimes the most powerful countermove one can make when a person is screaming is to calmly say that her behavior is not helpful and then continue interacting with the rest of the family while ignoring the enraged person.

“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples shall divide within you.”

Divorce from a vindictive, cruel spouse can be a lifelong nightmare when there are offspring.

There were many French Jews who jumped at the chance to shed their ancient identity and assimilate.

As Rabbi Shemtov stood on the stage and looked out at the attendees, he told them that “Rather than take photos with your cellphones, take a mental photo and keep this Shabbat in your mind and take it with you throughout your life.”

Yeshiva v’Kollel Bais Moshe Chaim will be holding a grand celebration on the occasion of the institution’s 40th anniversary on Sunday evening, December 7. Alumni, students, friends and faculty of the yeshiva, also known as Talmudic University of Florida, will celebrate the achievement and vision of its founders and the spiritual guidance of its educational […]

The yeshiva night accommodates all levels of Jewish education.

More Articles from Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen
Cohen-080814-Sign

Is God apologizing for taking away my Father? Is God telling me that He is sorry?

Cohen-Rabbi-J-Simcha-NEW

Question: At Birkat Kohanim, who says the phrase, “Am k’doshecha ka’amur”?

Question: How can one determine whether someone is a true disciple of a rav, Rebbe, or rosh yeshiva?

Question: Does halacha agree with the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade permitting women to have abortions?

Question: When someone puts on a talit to lead services, should he recite a berachah?

Question: A number of synagogues feature bar mitzvah celebrations for elderly Jews. Is this proper?

Hashem understood their complaint and therefore selected the ritual mitzvah of sukkah to test them.

Question: Why is Shavuot celebrated as a two-day Yom Tov?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/post-holocaust-polish-experiences/2014/08/08/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: