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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Greek Army’

Chanukah In Poland

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

         Last week, we celebrated Chanukah, commemorating the repossession of the Beit HaMikdash from the hands of the mighty Greek Army. After defeating their enemy, the Jews purified, sanctified and rededicated the Beit HaMikdash that the Greeks had defiled.          


         Many comparisons can be found in Poland today. Even now, more than 60 years after the Shoah, there is much reclaiming, restructuring and rededication to carry out. 


         Almost every week, new Jewish sites are revealed, another Jew joins the community, or a memorial service is held for some tragic event of the not-so-distant past.


         On November 27, while cleaning out a World War II Era reservoir, workers found the bottom, lined with heavy flat stones, some with designs and Hebrew writing on them. They quickly realized that they were Jewish tombstones from the local cemetery.


         As with any Holocaust-related news in Poland it drew immediate media attention and the story was reported in many local newspapers. The Polish weekly Tygodnik Kepinski reported that there were about 200 stones in all, probably taken from the cemetery at Kepno.


         Kepno no longer has a Jewish community but the old synagogue building still stands as both a memorial and museum to the Jews that had once lived in the town, which had been 60 percent Jewish, before the Shoah. The local authorities have, as of last week, agreed to retrieve the tombstones and set them up in the synagogue building.


         Today, the town of Kepno belongs to the Wroclaw grouping of communities and, as a result, Rabbi Yitzchak Rappaport of Wroclaw was the first to be contacted by the local press for comment. He said he hoped to see the stones for himself soon.



Synagogue building in Kepno

(From Zachowane Synagogi I Domy Modlitwy W Polsce Katalog,  Jan Jagelski and Eleonora Bergman.)



         He added that removing the stones should not present any Jewish legal problems, as the site is not connected with a cemetery and “Thank God we are not talking about bones.”


         The stones were discovered Nov. 27, while workers excavated an area for renovation in the historic market square of Kepno, according to the Polish weekly Tygodnik Kepinski.  Hidden for decades, the stones apparently were removed from the town’s Jewish cemetery and used by the Nazis to line the bottom of the small reservoir.   There was no immediate word on the condition of the stones.


         Authorities in Kepno, located on the border of Silesia and Lodz Province, have agreed to remove the stones and place them in the town’s historic synagogue. Kepno has no active Jewish community, but was reportedly 60 percent Jewish before World War II.


         The site of the old cemetery in Kepno is covered by a gas station today.


         When I contacted Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, he said. “I heard about this last night (the second light of Chanuka). The first problem is to locate the bones that were necessarily uncovered during construction of the gas station.


         “Next, how much of the cemetery is overbuilt by the gas station? Third, we will sign an agreement with the gas station that no new building will take place. Fourth, the matzevot should be returned to the Jewish cemetery and not the synagogue.”


         It is possible that as a Jewish cemetery, the gas station will be returned to the Jewish community of Poland, and dignity will be restored to the Jewish remains interred within. 

Facing The Long Shots

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

        The menorahs have been put away; the scale groans with the added weight of the sufganiyot and latkes that were devoured; and people are starting to formulate their Pesach plans (so soon already!).


         When asked what kind of message they get out of Chanukah, many will say that the holiday represents the successful fight against assimilation that has threatened Yiddishkeit for thousands of years.


         But there is another very telling and inspiring message behind the Chanukah story. And that is about having the courage and the gumption totry and beat the odds, no matter how unlikely your success. It’s about being all too aware that what you are trying to achieve is at best a very, very long shot-but facing the challenge straight on and making the effort.


         There are many aspects of our lives that we would like to change or improve upon but seem out of our control. And based on the facts on the ground, attaining them are highly improbable. For some, it is improving one’s parnasha by venturing out on your own, or going back to school at a late age; for some the challenge is having a baby; or getting married despite a handicap or bad health. For others, it is overcoming an overwhelming legal or medical issue.


         Often, a person is discouraged from “giving it a shot” based on “expert” advice, or talked out of it by family and friends who truly believe that the person’s particular goal is designed for failure. Some are simply pessimistic by nature or have their own agenda for not wanting the person to succeed. I remember years ago telling someone who I thought had my best interests at heart that I was going to enter a national magazine’s writing contest. I was told not to bother or waste my time since there was no way I was going to win. Being young, I allowed myself to be influenced by this negative response and didn’t even bother trying.


         But as my mother, a”h, a survivor of the Shoah used to say, “Where there’s life, there is hope.” Your particular goal might statistically be out of reach-and might end up actually being unattainable–but at the end of the day, even if you don’t succeed, at least you know you tried.


Like The Maccabees


         Had they listened to what common sense would have dictated-”How will a ragtag bunch of farmers/shepherds/priests beat the invincible Greek Army?” they would have not even attempted to change the status quo and who knows what would have been the future of the Jewish people? The United States of America came into being because a group of men who decided to right what they considered a grievous wrong did not let the seemingly insurmountable odds against them intimidate them. They took on the British Empire and the rest is history.


         Something I read decades ago that made a very deep impression on me was, of all things, a death notice upon which I had come across, of a man who, after being given six months to live, had passed away almost 20 years later. The obit even mentioned that he had actually outlived several of the doctors under whose care he was.


         I imagine that had he listened to the medical opinion he was given-which no doubt was based on his doctors’ collective expertise and experience-he would have indeed died within the year. This man took it on himself to beat the odds that were against him, to stand up to the ” facts” that sentenced him to death. He probably fought one week, one month at a time until they became years. No doubt he had setbacks-but he continued his fight.


         And that is the lesson that Chanukah gifts us with. Despite the “indisputable facts,” despite the hardships, despite-statistically-the very real likelihood that you will fail-you owe it to yourself to give it your best shot. Again. After all-in spite of the laws of physics-the one-day-only supply of oil lasted for eight. Miracles happen. Childless couples have babies after years, even decades, of being infertile; people turn around their financial situations; people right a wrong.


         It is true that many do not beat the incredible odds against them and they do fail. That part was beschert.


         But at least they tried. Like Mattityahu and his men they stared failure in the face and they still went ahead. And that is the true measure of a successful life.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/facing-the-long-shots/2006/12/27/

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