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September 15, 2014 / 20 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Holocaust Europe’

Two Holocaust Survivers Reunited 70 Years Later

Monday, March 12th, 2012

“They had all but given up the search for relatives who had survived the Nazi extermination effort, to find each other was almost overwhelming,” reports the Florida Sun Sentinel. And I have nothing funny or ironic or cynical to say about this one, I’m simply touched.

Lemel Leo Adler, left, and Leon Schagrin are cousins, the sons of two sisters. After the invasion of Poland, they were transported to the Tarnow ghetto, and then to several labor camps, and finally to Buna, “a chemical plant taht also known as Auschwitz III.” In there they met only briefly, between shifts.

In January 1945 they were separated and didn’t see each other again. “A far as they know, everyone else in their families were killed.”

They both immigrated to the US, where Adler was restaurant manager and Schagrin was in the plastics trade. They continued the search for relatives, but found no one.

Last week Adler received a copy of “The Horse Adjutant,” Schagrin’s 2001 book about being forced to care for horses owned by Nazi officers. A friend told him there were names in the book of places Adler had been to during the war.

“I don’t usually read such books, because I lived through the Holocaust,” Adler told the Sentinel’s James D. Davis. “But then I started scanning it and found family names – like my mother’s maiden name.”

He researched the records of the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center in South Florida and learned about Schagrin – who represents the center about the Holocaust to South Florida students.

He called Schagrin on the phone to say, “I know you!” Then he cited family members the two had known.

Schagrin’s reaction was: “You know how it is when nerves are tickling all over your body? I couldn’t believe it after 70 years.”

According to Miriam Fridman, president of the survivors’ club (Schagrin is vice president), these reunions are becoming more and more rare,. For one thing, many survivors have passed away. The club had 1,400 members in the 1990s, but only around 300 today.

Readers Ask: What Are We To Do?

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

For the past few weeks I have been writing about the crisis our Jewish community is witnessing, a crisis reminiscent of pre-Holocaust Europe that caught the Jewish community sleeping and unawares.

It has been the sad lot of our people to make the same mistakes again and again.  Incredibly, we refuse to see the world as it is and we instead create our own rose-colored reality. We assure one another, “There is no anti-Semitism…we live in a free democratic society and there is nothing to fear. We can’t allow some crazy fanatics to push the panic button.”

So we lull ourselves back to sleep. But time marches relentlessly on, and with each day world events become all the more menacing.

In the face of all this, I have spoken out and continue to speak out; I have written and continue to write. There is a great difference however, between these two mediums. When I speak, it’s easy for me to feel the pulse of the audience, the energy in the room; but writing a newspaper column is different. There are no eyes, no facial expressions to tell me, “I am with you. I understand!”

But this past week I received a large number of e-mails from readers who signaled their total support for what I’ve been writing. They wanted to know what they could do and what is the next step required of them. I was strengthened to know there are so many who are listening and that the beautiful neshamas of our people stand ready to do their share to respond to the challenges of the moment.

I will share with you two such e-mails and, b’ezrat Hashem, in my next column I will address the problem.

Letter 1

Dear Rebbetzin:

I am a subscriber and I love your books and your column. But in reading your last two columns, I was left with something missing.  While there are too many Jews who aren’t paying attention, there are plenty of us who are. And while we hear the alarm, we don’t know that to do about it beyond what we’re already doing. We are davening, learning Torah and trying to do mitzvot. But while I am sure that there is more we can do, I don’t know what that is.

Thank you for your time and effort on behalf of Klal Yisrael.

Letter 2

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis tichye until 120:

I read your column with great interest. Although we are a young couple, my husband and I have been saying the same thing. It is obvious that the world atmosphere is very much like it was in pre-Holocaust Europe when the very air was poisoned with anti-Semitism. My husband absorbed this from books he has read and from the stories of  the older generation of survivors. But we lack direction as to what we should do. We try to be good Jews; we beseech Hashem for His protection.

We try to do chesed, and we try to avoid machlokes – strife – which nowadays can be found everywhere. We study Torah, we deal honestly with others, but with all that, there must be something more that we can do – something that will actually make a difference in Hashem’s Master Plan. But we do not know what that may be.

Throughout our history, we can see the same pattern repeated again and again: anti-Semitism, war, and then calm. It is obvious that Hashem wants us to realize we can depend only on Him for protection. Tragically, however, people today believe money can save them. Although the economy is sinking and people are losing their holdings, they believe the government will protect them despite all indications to the contrary.

I’m Afraid

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Yes, I’m afraid. When I say these words, most people do not understand, and they attribute my fears to the fact that I am a survivor and live in the shadow of my Holocaust experiences. Still others attribute my fears to “overreaction” and assure themselves there is nothing to worry about.  Fear, they rationalize, is a Jewish neurosis, identified with past generations, when our people lived in the darkness of the ghetto.

But today, things are different. Today we live in the United States, a free, democratic country, in which all people have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  And more – for the very first time in almost two thousand years, we have our own state and because of that, there is nothing to fear.

I wish I could be as confident as they claim to be, but I smell the noxious fumes of pre-Holocaust Europe, and so I write and speak wherever I can.

It is not Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood or Ahmadinejad that I fear. Nor do I fear the United Nations, an institution notorious for its hypocrisy and anti-Israel bias. I do not fear the sophisticated intellectuals who camouflage their hatred of Jews behind politically correct pseudonyms that mislead all too willing ears.

What I do fear is our own people – yes, our own people who have forgotten who we are, who no longer remember that we stood at Sinai, that we heard the voice of G-d, that we belong to a priestly kingdom, a holy nation and that everything that befalls us is choreographed by Hashem and is a reflection of our own deeds, our own hands.

To be sure, there is nothing new about all this. It is a Truth that is a very pillar of our faith and is inscribed for all eternity in the Torah. The warning screams out to us from almost every portion, yet we refuse to heed it. How can it be that we are so blind? How can it be that after thousands of years we still fail to understand?

Our history is constant replay – again and again, tragedies befall us, yet we refuse to comprehend. It could all be so simple if we would be willing to understand. But no matter how unbearable our pain, how agonizing our suffering, we continue to reject it.  Every day, a Bas Kol, a Heavenly Voice, calls us, but we choose to remain deaf. We have shed our priestly garments and no longer recognize ourselves.

Time and again G-d sends His prophets to remind us that our destiny is different from that of all other nations, that our very existence is directly linked to our adherence to G-d’s commandments. Hashem has guaranteed our eternity, for we, the Jewish people, have been chosen to be His witnesses. Tragically, though, we fail to see the glory of our calling, and that is the painful reality of our long, tormented exile. We have seen mighty nation rise – only to fall even as we have endured and triumphed. Still we remain obdurate.

Even as a young child in Bergen-Belsen, I was aware of this Truth. My saintly father, HaRav Avraham Halevi Jungreis, zt”l, embedded it in my heart and soul. But I could never have imagined that before I would see the dawn, six million of our people would be consumed in the flames.

Despite it all however, by the grace of G-d not only are we here, we have reinvented ourselves. We have given new life to the great academies of Torah that once shone so brightly throughout the shtetlach of Europe, and we have returned to and rebuilt our ancient land. We have brought new life to the barren wasteland. We have planted gardens and forests, despite the constant barrage of missiles and rockets. Yes, miraculously we did it all and yet we still failed to see G-d’s guiding Hand.

Priorities For Our People In A Dangerous World

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

The world has again become a barbaric jungle. Ferocious beasts are ready to pounce on Israel. As a survivor of the Holocaust, I have for a long time now smelled the same noxious fumes that engulfed pre-Holocaust Europe, but no one wants to pay heed. It is always easier to dismiss such warnings as unfounded paranoia or products of the scarred minds of those who survived that hell on earth.

Yes, I am one of those survivors, and it is true that my heart and mind are forever scarred. But despite those very deep scars my soul soars upward, imbued with faith – faith in our G-d and in His guiding Hand; faith in our people and our ability to reinvent ourselves and recreate the bastions of Torah that once dotted the shtetlach and cities of eastern Europe.

Not long after our liberation from Bergen Belsen, my saintly father, HaRav HaGaon HaTzaddik Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, received the unspeakable news that with the exception of his sister, his entire family had been murdered at Auschwitz. My Zeide, my Bubba, my aunts and uncles and their innocent babes who never had a chance to live, were all gone.

My father was the ben yachid, the only living son of the glorious rabbinic dynasty of my Zeide. And now the tears streamed down my father’s holy face – tears that could have filled rivers and oceans, but even in the midst of those tears my father’s voice rang out loud and clear: “Lichtige kinderlach – my precious lights, we will rebuild the Torah of our grandfathers.”

And from that moment, my father never rested. Wherever life’s journeys took him, he created new enclaves of Torah and Yiddishkeit, and he charged us, his children, with the same mission.

My vision of creating Hineni was not born in a vacuum. It had deep roots that spanned the centuries, roots that took me back to the ladder of Jacob. On a ladder you cannot rest but have to keep moving.

“Never stop,” my father charged. “Keep building Torah!”

People ask me where I find the energy to travel from country to country, to teach and speak without stop, often on three hours’ sleep.

But even as they ask, I hear my father’s voice: “Never stop!”

So, yes, while my mind and heart were scorched by the inferno of Hitler’s Europe, those flames could never penetrate my soul, which was illuminated by the light of Sinai.

When I say I smell the fumes of pre-Holocaust Europe, it is not my tortured memories that evoke the deadly fumes but rather my soul that cries out – a soul imbued with faith and the certainty that Hashem will never abandon us, that for all eternity our people will be here, but a soul that also knows that while we are here, we have paid a price no human mind can comprehend.

It is that knowledge which gives me no rest and prompts me to cry out.

Look at what is unfolding before our eyes. Israel is surrounded by enemies with one common aim – to wipe it off the map. And the world seems to have no problem with that.

I know there are those who will protest, “That’s ridiculous! Such statements have no basis or foundation in fact. It’s only Ahmadinejad, and he’s a madman.”

Those words have a familiar ring: “It’s only Hitler, and he’s a madman!”

Early on, I learned madmen have to be taken seriously. Precisely because they are mad, they carry out that which they threaten. When Ahmadinejad proclaims he will wipe Israel off the map, they are not empty words. Nor is he the only one with this obsession. All of Israel’s neighbors share with the same goal and are open about it. Not for a moment do they feel a need to hide their agenda – they shout it to the world and poison their children and children’s children with it.

“They too are madmen,” some will surely protest. “In the 21st century the world would never countenance such evil.”

I really would like to believe that, but the international climate has become so poisoned that in the present atmosphere it’s quite acceptable to demonize Israel and plot its end. Of course, “civilized, freedom-loving people” would never dare articulate any malevolent intent – and perhaps they dupe themselves into believing such an outcome is far from their thinking. They just want to bring peace to a war-torn neighborhood; it is the plight of the downtrodden Arabs that motivates their protest and compels them to again and again take Israel to task for “oppressive, Nazi-like tactics.”

What we are witnessing today is not an Arab Spring but an Arab Storm -a storm set to wash Israel off the planet. To cite just one of many recent examples: Even as the mobs in Egypt championed their cause in the streets, shouts of “Jews! Jews! – kill all the Jews!” reverberated. Not surprisingly, the world turned a deaf ear. (The ominous silence prevailed even when the mobs, those “lovers of freedom,” attacked Christian Egyptians and their churches.)

During the war in Lebanon, I had gone to that country with a film crew. We came to a Christian village the Muslims had ransacked while slaughtering all its residents. The skulls of Christians who had been decapitated were being used by Muslims as footballs, and still the world – and the Vatican – remained silent. Try to imagine what would have happened if Israel had perpetrated such satanic evil. The world would have been on fire. The UN would have convened a special session demanding the condemnation and probably the ousting of Israel.

Now Israel is once again called upon to return to its suicidal pre-Six Day War borders. Of course, the call comes with assurances that Israel will never be abandoned, that America will always stand behind the Jewish state. These promises have a hollow ring. Our tortured history of the past 2,000 years has taught us well, though only some of us choose to remember.

It is of no avail for Israel to cite the sacrifices it has made for peace, only to be rewarded by bloodshed. In vain would Israel remind the world that when it gave up the land on the Lebanese border, peacekeeping forces that were supposed to help secure that very border closed their eyes while wild hordes attacked our people, forcing them from their homes and rendering them refugees in their own land.

In vain would Israel point to Gaza and its environs, reminding the world that Israeli leaders had ordered their soldiers to forcibly evacuate their brethren from the homes they’d built, the gardens they’d planted, the wasteland they’d redeemed through blood and sacrifice. The beauty of Gush Katif is no more, replaced by launching pads of terror.

All of Israel’s sacrifices have been for naught; the Arabs have made it clear they will not rest until every Jew is killed and the tiny Jewish state is theirs.

As it was in the past, so it is today. The nations of the world gave the green light to Hitler. As the French say, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

(To Be Continued)

The Tragic Vacuum (Part Three)

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Several weeks ago I published a letter from an elderly Holocaust survivor who expressed her fear regarding the world situation, specifically the hatred of Israel and escalation of anti-Semitism that is reminiscent of pre-Holocaust Europe. Her letter provoked a torrent of e-mails from young and old readers, several of which I published, but I had not responded to her directly. B’ezrat Hashem, I will do so now.

My Dear Friend:

First, allow me to apologize for the delay in responding to your specific questions, but since you are familiar with my columns you are aware I always allow my readers to respond to the challenges under discussion.

I wish I could tell you that your fears are unfounded, that your imagination is running away with you, that reality proves you wrong. Sadly, however, you are right on target and those who make light of your worries are sleeping, even as our people slept in pre-Holocaust Europe.

What we are witnessing today was predicted by our prophets and sages but, alas, we are no longer familiar with their teachings. Ours is a generation of which the prophet Amos said: “And days shall come saith the L-rd, and I shall send a hunger into the land – not a hunger for bread, nor a thirst for water, but a hunger for the Word of G-d.”

This is the spiritual famine we are witnessing today. We simply do not comprehend and we continue on our merry way with business as usual.

Maimonides taught that when suffering is visited upon us, we are commanded to cry out and awaken our people with the sound of the shofar. Everyone must be alerted to examine his or her life and commit to greater adherence to Torah and mitzvos.

Maimonides warned that if we regard the tragedies that befall us simply as “the way of the world” – natural happenings – we will be guilty of achzarius, cruelty.

At first glance, it is difficult to understand why Maimonides would choose the term “cruelty” to describe those who view trials and tribulations as natural happenings. Such people may be unthinking, apathetic, foolish, blind or obtuse, but why accuse them of cruelty?

The answer is simple. If we regard our pain and suffering as mere coincidence, we will feel no motivation to examine our lives, abandon our old ways, and change. So, yes, such an attitude is cruel, for it invites additional misfortune upon ourselves and others.

It would be the height of cruelty to dismiss what is occurring in the world today as mere happenstance. Great Torah luminaries of past generations, such as the Chofetz Chaim and Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman, told us we are entering the final stages of history – a period called “Ikvesa D’Meshicha” – Footsteps of the Messiah.

Our Torah foretells four exiles through which our people would suffer: that of Egypt, of Babylonia, of the Persian-Mede empires and of the Greek and Roman empires – the exile in which we presently find ourselves, for it was the Romans who exiled us when they destroyed the Second Temple.

In Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer, an early midrashic work, it is written that before the coming of Messiah we will have to contend with a fifth source of tribulation that will come from Yishmael – the Arabs – who will cause terrible suffering to the world and to our people. This teaching is reaffirmed by Rabbi Chaim Vital, the illustrious disciple of the Arizal, who wrote that before the final curtain falls on the stage of history, Yishmael will inflict torture on our people in ways the world had never before seen.

One need not have great powers of discernment to recognize the painful veracity of these predictions. Just consider the constant, senseless, brutal acts of terror – the suicide bombers, decapitations, hijackings, missiles, etc.

We are the generation that has been destined to witness the fulfillment of the prophecy given to Hagar (Genesis 16:11-13): “Behold, you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you shall name him Ishmael…. and he shall be a wild ass of a man, with his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him .”

The long arm of Ishmael’s terror has indeed reached every part of the world.

There is yet another amazing prophecy in the Yalkut Shimoni – a medieval/midrashic compilation that eerily foretells the events of today and should give us all pause. Rabbi Yitzchok said, “The year in which Melech HaMashiach will be revealed, all the nations of the world will be provoking each other. The king of Persia [Iran] will provoke the king of Arabia. The king of Arabia will go to Edom [the leader of the Christian nations] to take counsel and the King of Persia [Ahmadinejad] will threaten to destroy the entire world.

“The nations of the world will be outraged and panic. They will fall on their faces and will experience pains like birth pangs. Israel too, will be outraged, and in a state of panic ask, ‘Where do we go?’

“But say unto them, ‘My children, do not fear. The time of your redemption has come. And this last redemption shall be different from the first that was followed by further bondage and pain. After this last redemption, you shall not experience any further pain or subjugation’ ” (Yalkut Shimoni, Isaiah 59).

Referring to this teaching, the Klausenberger Rebbe, zt”l, said, “Remember these words. They are perhaps not understood now, but in time they will be, and will be a source of strength to our people.”

Had you heard these prophecies centuries ago, when they were written, you might have laughed and scoffed. Even if you read them as recently as 1970, you would have been hard put to believe it, for of all Muslim countries, the Shah’s Iran was probably the friendliest. But today, the impossible has become possible and events are unfolding so rapidly we have difficulty absorbing their impact. So how are we to understand it all?

The Yalkut compares our suffering to birth pangs. But birth pangs are deceptive – when the contractions begin, it’s easy to ignore them since they are mild and occur between long intervals. As birth becomes imminent, however, the contractions intensify and the pain becomes more intense. And just when it appears the woman can no longer endure the pain, the baby is born and new life enters the world. It is these labor pains to which we are witness today.

How long will the labor last? It’s anyone’s guess, but one thing is certain. Please G-d, the birth is sure to take place. In the interim however, we may very well ask, “Is it possible to ease the suffering? Is it possible to protect ourselves from these painful contractions?”

The answer to that is a most emphatic “Yes!”

(To be continued)

‘What’s Happening In The World? – I’m Afraid’

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Special Note: I would like to thank the many people who have written expressing their appreciation for my series of columns titled “When Children Fall Through the Cracks.” I am most grateful for the overwhelming response and I hope everyone who wrote will understand that while I would have liked to publish all the letters, for the time being I am closing the discussion to focus on the many other subjects that have reached my desk.

The following are just two letters that convey the fear and worry people have regarding the rapidly deteriorating world situation.

Letter # 1: Fear of Tomorrow

Dear Rebbetzin:

The world is a scary place right now. The Middle East situation threatens our safety; our economy is nearer to collapse than many people would even imagine; natural disasters are hitting with alarming frequency and devastation, and being a Jew is more of an inherent risk, even in our “civilized” society, than it was before.

I’m just a regular frum woman struggling financially, trying to raise a family and terrified for the future of my children. What can we do? Clearly, Hashem is telling us something. Clearly, something is brewing, but I don’t know what to do with this knowledge. Many say to move to Eretz Yisrael. That’s not an option for everyone. I know the obvious answer is do teshuvah and daven. I know a FFB (frum from birth) woman is not supposed to say these kinds of things, but before and during the Holocaust many people, many mothers like myself, davened plenty and it didn’t save them or their children.

Maybe I am being childish and shallow and shortsighted, but when it comes to the safety of my family, I can’t stomach the “sometimes Hashem says no” line of reasoning. I want to know how to get a “yes” – how to make sure that whatever happens, we will be fed and warm and together and alive.

Spiritually, the world situation makes me feel farther from Hashem than ever. I feel small and helpless, doomed to go with the tide. I can see the writing on the wall and there is nowhere to run. Anyone I have tried to bring this up to, including my husband, either thinks I’m an alarmist and paranoid or gives me tired clichés that really don’t answer any of my specific concerns.

You, Rebbetzin, are a Holocaust survivor and have seen times like this before in your life, at least in some respects. You have a strong faith and are blessed to be able to see through some of the smog to a glimmer of truth and make it understandable to the masses. What can a frum mother with shaken faith and fear for the future do, in practical, realistic steps, to protect herself and her children from the turmoil brewing in the world and whatever it cooks up?

Letter # 2: From a Holocaust Survivor

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I hope you will get this letter. I have been told you only respond to e-mail, but I do not know how to write e-mails. I am eighty-five years old, and though my little great-grandchildren have no difficulty getting on the computer, I cannot get used to it. All this new technology bewilders me and makes me feel out of touch with this generation. I have shared my feelings with some of my friends, and they agree – we all feel so unintelligent, so lost in these times. Very often, my friends and I feel like has-beens, and that, I must say, that is not a pleasant feeling.

It’s not easy getting old, but I’m not complaining. I’m most grateful that I’m not, G-d forbid, in a hospital or a nursing home – that I’m here, alive and comparatively well, while most of my friends no longer are. I must add that I’m even grateful to Hashem that I am able to collect my thoughts and write this letter to you. I know very well that, sadly, not all people my age are able to do this. Nevertheless, I still feel frustrated, not only because of the technology, but because I feel my thoughts and concerns are dismissed.

Ours is a youth culture, and people have no respect for the elderly. When I speak, my children and grandchildren listen respectfully – but they dismiss my words and attribute everything that I say to my Holocaust experiences and my age. I don’t want you to get the wrong impression – they are good children, but I can see by their reactions that they don’t take me seriously. So let me share my worries with you.

I was born in Poland. My parents were wonderful people who were always kind and considerate of others.When the Holocaust began, we were all taken to Auschwitz. My parents and younger brothers were immediately taken to the gas chambers and my sister (three years younger than me) and I survived.

After our liberation, we were taken to a D.P. (displaced persons) camp where I met and married my beloved husband, a”h. We came to America in 1947. My sister, on the other hand, went to Israel and settled in Petach Tikva where she lives to this day. She is also a widow; her husband, a”h., passed away six years ago. She has two children – one lives in Tel Aviv and the other in Ranana.

Upon arriving in America, I was determined to learn English and educate myself. I wanted to become a productive person in my new environment. My husband and I built quite a successful business, which my children are now running, and I retired ten years ago. Sometimes I think I should have stayed in the business. My days are long – I have too much time to think – but then again, I realize that nowadays business transactions are done by computer, and that is a foreign world for me.

I follow the news regularly and, frankly, am terrified by what I read, see, and hear. I see pre-Holocaust Europe being repeated all over again and no one is paying attention. And now that Eretz Yisrael is being surrounded on all sides by Muslim terrorists who openly proclaim that their main agenda is to, heaven forbid, annihilate our people, I am overwhelmed by fear. It doesn’t leave me for a second!

When I speak to my sister (we call each other once a week) she expresses the same fears. And even as no one takes me seriously here and attributes all my worries to my Holocaust past, so she finds the same reaction to her worries in Eretz Yisrael. It seems that people who did not experience that gehenom first hand cannot understand – just like we couldn’t understand what was happening in Europe before the barbaric evil of the Nazis became a reality.

Rebbetzin, my fears do not leave me. I am not afraid for myself – I am already eighty-five – but I fear for my children and grandchildren and for all our Jewish people. So I am writing to you now because you too are a Holocaust survivor and you never hesitate to speak out. You are a woman of great faith, committed to our Torah and mitzvos and if there is anyone who can understand and give some guidance, it is surely you. I hope you will receive this letter and that you will respond to it through your column. Again, I emphasize that I’m not seeking this guidance for myself – I am old, but I am worried for our people.

(To be continued)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/whats-happening-in-the-world-im-afraid-2/2011/03/02/

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