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February 22, 2017 / 26 Shevat, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Hungary’

Raoul Wallenberg’s 100th Birthday: Iranian Participation, New Investigation

24 Tevet 5772 – January 19, 2012

A celebration of the 100th birthday of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved the lives of over 20,000 Hungarian Jews in the final days of World War II, also marks the renewal of investigations into the events surrounding his death.

The event, which took place in the portrait hall of Budapest’s National Museum in Hungary, was attended by a slew of international representatives, including the wife of late Congressman Tom Lantons, who was saved by Wallenberg, and Holocaust survivor and Israeli Minister-without-Portfolio Yossi Peled.  A surprise to attendees was the participation of Iranian Ambassador to Hungary Seyed Agha Banihashemi Saeed, who remained throughout the duration of the ceremony, including during a speech made by Peled.  Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an open Holocaust denier and has made frequent calls for the destruction of Israel.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who was also in attendance, has asked experts to open a new probe into what happened to Wallenberg after his capture in 1945.

Wallenberg was personally responsible for the issuing of Swedish diplomatic papers to Hungarian Jews beginning in July 1944, as well as for establishing hiding places for Jews throughout Budapest.

Wallenberg was arrested by Russian officers on January 17, 1945.  He was never heard from again, and his whereabouts or circumstances of death were never established. He was 32 years old at the time of his disappearance.

The new investigation will be led by Hans Magnusson, who began his inquiry into Wallenberg’s whereabouts in the 1990s along with Russian experts.  At the time, the Russians said Wallenberg was probably killed on June 17, 1947 in Soviet custody.  At the time, the Soviets said Wallenberg died of a heart attack in prison.  However, some evidence and eye-witness reports suggest he may have survived beyond that date.

Moreover, two US researchers are now saying a recently discovered Swedish document shows that the KGB intervened to thwart Magnusson’s investigation of Wallenberg’s disappearance.

At the ceremony, Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi admitted that Hungary played a role in the deaths of 600,000 Hungarian Jews, and reaffirmed Hungary’s current support for Israel.

The year of Wallenberg’s 100th birthday will include a Hungarian commemorative stamp, a national competition for high school students on Holocaust history, and an event honoring Hungarian non-Jewish “Righteous Among the Nations” at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum.

When Children Fall Through The Cracks (Conclusion)

19 Adar I 5771 – February 23, 2011

For several weeks now I have been running a series on the plight of parents whose children who have “fallen through the cracks” and the painful ramifications both suffer.

I hope to conclude the discussion with this column.

Last week I wrote of the concerns of parents who have children of marriageable age and fear they will not be able to make shidduchim for them because of that one troubled child. This week, as promised, I will focus on the apprehensions of parents who agonize about the potential negative effects of such a child on their siblings.

My own children grew up in a totally secular neighborhood. They were the only ones who were shomer Shabbos and went to yeshiva. My boys were the only ones who wore yarmulkes and my girls the only ones to wear tzniusdik (modest) clothing.

And yet they were friends with the children in the neighborhood, who even joined us at our Shabbos table. Instead of those children influencing our sons and daughters, our children knew they had to influence them. As a matter of fact, just recently I spoke at an Orthodox synagogue in which one of those boys is very active and an officer of the board. Baruch Hashem, he is totally shomer Shabbos, as are his children, who are all yeshiva students. And it all started because of his friendship with my son.

Nowadays, however, such a situation would be a rarity. Today’s observant parents would be fearful if their children were to befriend those who are not religious lest their secular peers influence them and lead them astray.

So how did I do it?

From a very tender age, I charged my boys and girls with a mission. They had to do whatever they could to be m’karev – to reach out to – their secular counterparts. My son was four years old when he befriended the four-year-old son of our neighbor. They played together regularly. One day, my son approached me and said, “Ima, could you teach ____’s housekeeper how to bentsh licht for Shabbos [kindle the Sabbath candles]? His mommy doesn’t want to do it.”

When I explained why that couldn’t work, my little boy did not give up. Next thing I knew, his friend put on a yarmulke and then he went on to join him in yeshiva. How did that happen? As mentioned above, I had fortified my children with a sense of mission that I didn’t allow them to forget. When guests joined us at our Shabbos table, my children knew they had to be on their best behavior lest these people form the wrong impression of those who are Torah observant.

Frankly, I have difficulty understanding how it is that in families where there is one son or daughter who “fell through the cracks,” parents do not charge their other children with reaching out and influencing the rebellious sibling.

Oh, I am well aware of the arguments people put forth – “It’s easier to follow the bad than the good”; “It’s easier to fall through the cracks than to stand up straight and walk on the path of Torah”; “It wouldn’t work, my son/daughter is too far gone – he/she just won’t listen”; “If they try, they will just end up in a nasty fight”; “Rebbetzin, you don’t begin to understand what goes on in our house – my son comes home at crazy hours and don’t know where he was or what he is up to, he drinks, he smokes….”; “You can’t imagine how he/she dresses. It’s an embarrassment!”

I know all that, yet I will tell you the power of love is the only thing that can reach them. Yes, the power of unconditional love and kindness goes a long, long way – and I speak from real experience rather than from some abstract theory. And this holds true for yeshivas as well. When rebellious children are ousted and cast into a jungle, they can only fall further. When their classmates shun them and make them feel like lowlifes, they can only deteriorate and become that which they have been told they are.

I always wonder why these same classmates cannot be spoken to and told of Hashem’s sorrow when a Yiddishe neshamah is lost – when one of His children, so to speak, dies? I always wonder why these classmates cannot be told it is in their hands to try to bring this lost neshamah back to Hashem. Instead of calling this child a “bum,” why can’t we call him a “teire kind” – a precious child – embrace him with a hug and tell him, “You belong to Mamlechet Kohanim – a Priestly Kingdom; your people need you and Hashem loves you, yearns for you, and never gives up on you. You can do it!”

I know some of you may think I am living in a dream world, oblivious to reality. A gadol, a great sage, once said, “I may be dreaming, but I’m not sleeping.” Growing up under the guidance of my saintly parents, I actually saw this dream become reality.

I remember many moons ago, following my family’s internment in Bergen Belsen, we were sent to a DP camp in Switzerland. One day, a group of Polish boys, ranging in age from 17-20, was brought to our camp from Auschwitz. They had seen their parents tortured and cast into the gas chambers and crematoria. They themselves had felt the sting of the whip and had experienced starvation and torture beyond description.

They were all very angry and bitter. They threw away their yarmulkes, didn’t want to know about Torah or mitzvos, and didn’t want to hear the word “Hashem.” They were quartered in a dormitory and every night, my father, the holy sage HaRav HaGaon Avraham Halevi Jungreis, zt”l, would visit them. He never admonished or chastised them. Instead, he went from bed to bed, covered them, kissed them, said the “Shema” with them, and whispered “Schluff gezunte heit mein teire kind” – “Sleep well my precious child.” And my mother volunteered for the kitchen and always managed to find something extra for them.

Many years later, I was speaking in a community in Florida when an elderly gentleman approached me. “Esther, you remember me?” he asked. Since he called me “Esther,” I surmised that our connection must go all the way back to my youth, but I didn’t have the foggiest notion of whom he could be.

“Remind me, ” I said.

“I am one of the Polish boys from Auschwitz who joined you at the DP camp in Switzerland. And these are my grandchildren.”

Before me stood seven sweet children. “They all go to yeshiva,” the man continued, “and it’s all due to your parents of blessed memory. I will never forget them!”

You might argue that this was different, that those young people went through the Holocaust. Every case is different, but there is one common denominator that applies in every generation – LOVE.

It is with this approach that I established Hineni and have reached out to our people. This teaching that my holy parents engraved upon my heart has guided me throughout my life. I have often thought how different our Jewish world would be if, instead of anger and disdain, we would learn to follow this path and envelop our children in love and kindness. If, instead of throwing out a child, we would call him aside after class, speak to him softly, embrace him, give him a berachah and tell him he has great potential, that he is a heilige Yiddishe neshamah, he would look at himself differently and not feel he is a bum.

There is yet another option for troubled children – enrollment in a “special school” where they meet other rebellious students. The down side to this is that, lacking positive role models, they very often feed off each other and fall even further.

Not long ago, a young man from a good family was brought to our office by his friend. He was involved with a gentile girl, and everything else that accompanies such a scenario. I invited him to come to my classes. Instead of admonishing him and berating him, I told him how much he was needed by our people, and how Hashem yearned for him to come home. I showed him the beauty of the Torah life he had so irresponsibly rejected.

Slowly but surely, he changed. I tried to convince him to return home. He told me he would never be accepted. I called his father, who was shocked by my call – and, I think, somewhat resentful and uncomfortable that I had become privy to this tragedy in his family. I understood where he was coming from and told him that in these turbulent, pre-messianic times, many of our families are splintered and suffer greatly. Slowly, I convinced him his son was on the mend.

To be sure, it has not all been smooth sailing, but he is on the path. Slowly the wounds are healing – another Jewish child has come home, and a family has become united.

I have dealt with many teenagers who have been cast out of their homes and schools, and once again I must emphasize that the most potent way to reach them is with berachos and love. I am not saying this is easy. It is a terrible nisayon for all concerned. I understand it is easy to be overcome by rage and lose it, but then we have to bear in mind the consequences and ask ourselves what will be accomplished if I yell and scream and call him derogatory names. On the other hand, if I hold my temper, respond calmly and show him I am sad rather than mad, I have a shot at reaching him. Not in vain did our sages teach us, “Who is wise? – He who foresees the future.”

Obviously, our sages were not referring to prophecy, but to foreseeing the consequences of our actions.

I believe there is yet one more issue that needs to be addressed. Some of our children who have “fallen through the cracks” have done so simply because they are not “learners.” They cannot keep up with the demands of the schools, so to call attention to themselves they become “clowns” and are eventually ousted.

My beloved husband, HaRav Meshulem Halevi Jungreis, zt”l, received semicha while still in Hungary and he often told me that in his yeshiva, there was one big beis hamedrash where everyone learned and the weaker students were helped by the stronger ones. One day, a well-known rabbi from Israel came to our community to raise money for his institution. My husband recalled that in his youth this rabbi had studied in his yeshiva and had difficulty grasping the Gemara, but there was always some other student who would assume the responsibility of reviewing the teaching and working with him. As a result, today he is a big talmid chacham – a highly respected scholar and rabbi with a vast knowledge of Torah.

Just recently, I was on my way to speak in Palm Beach, Florida. On the same flight was a distinguished looking man with a white beard, black hat and coat. I noticed there was some foreign object stuck to his coat. I debated in my mind whether I should approach him to make him aware of it or just remain silent. Knowing that a talmid chacham must be careful about his appearance, I decided to go over to him. I said in Yiddish, “Forgive me…” and pointed to the object.

He quickly removed it and thanked me profusely.

“Aren’t you Rebbetzin Jungreis?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Are you an ainekle of the great Czengerer Tzaddik?”

“Yes,” I said. (My great-great grandfather, the Czengerer Rebbe, was renowned throughout Hungary for the miraculous cures he was able to bring to our people.)

He went on to tell me that one of his very good friends had been afflicted with terminal cancer. The doctors did not give him long to live. Someone told him to go to Czenger and pray at the gravesite of the tzaddik. “Today, ten years later,” he continued, “he is well and enjoying his beautiful mishpacha.”

He paused before continuing. “I will tell you another story, and this one is about me. I give you permission to repeat it because I think it will help many families, but please do not use my name. As a young boy studying in cheder in Hungary, I had much difficulty. I simply couldn’t get it. No matter how hard I tried, the teachings could not penetrate my head.

“My father, of blessed memory, just didn’t know what to do with me. He was full of anguish over it, and my rebbe was very frustrated with me but he always encouraged me and told me to keep trying. He told me to daven that Hashem should help. But still I couldn’t get it. The other boys were advancing and I was nowhere. Then, one day, when no one was around, I went to the Aron HaKodesh and I cried bitterly. I begged Hashem to please help me and pleaded with Him to open my mind and my eyes so that I might understand His holy words – and miraculously, it worked!

“But I couldn’t have done it,” he added, “if not for the support and encouragement of my rebbe.”

I have often thought how different things would be today if we would learn to adopt some of the ways that came so naturally to our zeides and rebbes of yesterday.

Rising Above Aggravation (Part One)

23 Tevet 5771 – December 30, 2010

For the past month I’ve been on the road, crossing continents and addressing Jewish communities wherever they are. I go from the airport to the local synagogue or some other venue where people gather.

Invariably I am asked, “Rebbetzin, how do you do it? People younger than you cannot keep up with such a schedule. Travel is so difficult. Don’t you find it exhausting?”

“Exhausting?” I answer, “it’s far beyond that. Travel nowadays has become a nerve-wracking nightmare.”

During these past weeks I have spoken in Brazil, Hungary and Eretz Yisrael. But allow me to describe to you just one small part of what I experienced. There are no longer any direct flights from New York to Budapest, so our travel agent suggested we go through Paris. We had quite a lot of luggage because from Budapest we were scheduled to fly directly to Eretz Yisrael, and the climate on these two continents is totally different. Hungary was bitterly cold and Israel was experiencing an unprecedented heat wave.

I must admit I usually run late. My schedule is so tight that it does not permit me to be early. In addition to packing, there is much to do before I depart, not the least of which is writing this column. So, as usual, we arrived at JFK just in the nick of time. We went through the endless security check, removing our jackets and shoes, etc. etc. and finally, when we arrived breathless at the gate, we discovered that our flight to Paris had been delayed two hours. We tried to explain to the agent that we had to make a connecting flight. “Don’t worry,” she assured us, “they know that. You’ll have plenty of time.”

Finally, we boarded the plane and it started to taxi down the runway, but suddenly, it came to a stop. “We are very sorry for any inconvenience,” came the polite announcement, “but due to the weather, there will be a further delay.” And with this, we were consigned to sit on the runway for another hour.

Would that be enough to aggravate you? Wait; that was just the beginning.

So what do I do to protect myself from stress? I tell myself, Baruch Hashem that I didn’t listen to those who said that I could depart on Thursday night rather than on Wednesday and still arrive in Budapest in time forShabbos. Baruch Hashem, I never forgot the teaching of my revered father, HaRav HaGaon Avraham Halevi Jungreis, zt”l, who was careful never to schedule any travel that would bring him to his destination on erev Shabbos.

“The Satan is on the road erev Shabbos,” he would say, “and places obstructions in one’s path.” So I smiled to myself and in my mind said, “Thank you, Tatie,” and that thought, in and of itself, was calming. B’ezrat Hashem, I would still arrive in Budapest in ample time to speak at the Shabbaton.

Finally we arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris – and of course missed our connecting flight. The airport is one of the biggest and most difficult to navigate in Europe, and we were sent from gate to gate, airline to airline, even to Malev, the Hungarian national airline, only to discover there was no longer a Malev desk. Not only were the distances between these gates enormous; the agents were, for the most part, discourteous and arrogant. We called our hosts in Budapest, Adrienn and Robie, who had visited our Hineni organization in New York and become totally inspired and committed. They were at the airport awaiting our arrival and worried as to what could have happened to us. They suggested we take a flight to Vienna where they would pick us up by car.

There were only two problems with that suggestion – our luggage, which was ticketed for Budapest, had yet to be located, and heavy snow was falling in Vienna as in most of Europe.

At another airline counter it was suggested we buy new tickets which would perhaps get us to Budapest on time. We called our travel agent in New York, but there was not much he could do. But before we could even consider purchasing new tickets, we were informed there were no seats available on that flight. The web of aggravation tightened around us. Another thought from my childhood gave me some comfort: “Let it all be a kapporah” (an atonement that would spare us from all other problems).

We finally arrived in Budapest at 1 a.m. – only to discover to our dismay that all our luggage was missing. We were directed to Lost and Found where the agent searched the computer and curtly informed us that she was very sorry but had no idea where our luggage might be.

“Is it still in Paris?” I asked hopefully.

“No,” she responded coldly.

“Then where is it?” I persisted.

“I already told you. It did not come up on the computer. I have no further information to give you!”

“When do you think you will know?” I asked again, and this time there was a definite touch of annoyance in her voice as she said, “If we find it, we will let you know.”

Bear in mind that while we were supposed to arrive in Budapest on Thursday morning, it was now erev Shabbos. I did not have a change of clothing or shoes (I always travel in sneakers). And worse, from Budapest we were scheduled to continue on to Eretz Yisrael, and all our clothing was missing. To console us, the agent offered us a little kit containing a toothbrush, toothpaste and a T-shirt.

As we left the airport, I once again asked, “When can we expect to get our luggage?”

Again, she repeated, “I cannot tell you. I will be searching, but so far the computer shows nothing.”

How could I go into Shabbos wearing these crumpled clothes? How could I speak before a large audience? Would you agree that this was surely enough to test anyone’s nerves?

Once again, I tried to muster my strength and to say to myself, “Kapporah.”Somehow it will all come out right. Is it not written that he who is on a mitzvah mission cannot fail? And surely, reaching out to our brethren who are on the brink of disappearing in the deep sea of assimilation is one of the greatest mitzvos.

On our way to the hotel we were told that while it had snowed the entire day and stopped on our arrival, heavy snow was forecast through Shabbos. Now I had a new concern. “Will we have an attendance?”

“Oh, Rebbetzin, don’t worry,” Adrienn assured me. “Everyone will come. Nothing will keep them away.”

Just the same, I couldn’t help but worry because I knew that, under the best of circumstances, in countries like Hungary Jewish awareness is so minimal you can consider yourself fortunate if 40-50 people show up.

We fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. In the morning, to our relief, we saw the sun trying to emerge and melt away the snow. We called to see if there was any news of our luggage. “No,” they told us, “we are still searching, but if we locate it [and the word “if” had an ominous ring] we’ll contact you.” At this point we had no choice but to resign ourselves to reality and try to clean and iron our clothes in honor of Shabbos.

When I arrived at the synagogue, I understood the meaning of kapporah. It all paid off. The shul was packed with countless secular young people – a rare sight in European countries where Judaism is disappearing. I very much wanted to address my audience in Hungarian, but while I speak Hungarian my vocabulary is limited since I was deported to the concentration camps at a young age.

I told our hosts I would make a few introductory remarks in Hungarian but would then continue in English, pause after every few paragraphs, and have a translator convey my thoughts. Miraculously, however, no sooner did I start speaking in Hungarian than Hashem gave me the words and I was actually able to dispense with the translator and speak freely.

The response was electrifying. Suddenly, the loss of luggage, the aggravation in Paris, the stress at Kennedy, all disappeared. Nothing was important except the Jewish light sparkling in their eyes. This blessing was repeated at the Shabbos seudah and again motzaei Shabbos when we had a huge gathering in one of Budapest’s theaters. Jews came from all over Hungary and the large hall quickly filled to capacity. We showed our film, “Triumph of the Spirit” which portrays my experiences during the years of the Holocaust. Amazingly, once again I was able to speak in Hungarian and dispense with the earphones that had been prepared for simultaneous translation.

Young and old, men and women – all were awakened. The pintele Yid in their souls became a flame from Sinai. Perhaps not since the Holocaust had there been such a gathering of Jews in Hungary. I’ve been receiving letters from our Hungarian brethren who are embarking on a life of Torah and mitzvos.

Would I do it again?

Of course. When you weigh the joy and berachah of seeing Jewish people who only yesterday were on the brink of spiritual death come to life again; when you see our Torah saturating their hearts, kindling their souls with commitment and faith, aggravation is replaced by spiritual joy, exhaustion by exhilaration and despondency by energy.

Would I do it again? Am I ready to undertake the next journey? Yes. It’s already set.

Am I tired? Of course. But the fulfillment in my heart is much more powerful than any exhaustion, and I believe this holds true for all of us. It’s all a matter of looking beyond the moment and seeing the greater picture of our life’s journey.

The Belzer Rebbe’s Flight To Freedom

2 Nisan 5767 – March 21, 2007

Beginning in the tiny Galician town of Belz, Rabbi Aharon Rokeach, better known as the Belzer Rebbe, maintained his chassidic court despite the constant danger. At first, Belz was too insignificant to be awarded German scrutiny. Nonetheless, the Rebbe followed events closely, and when word came on Hoshanna Rabba that the Germans would be invading Belz the next day, he made preparations and issued instructions.

Despite the sheer panic that had seized his flock, the Belzer Rebbe calmly declared that a Day of Judgment was clearly at hand, and that full Jewish life must be practiced as long as humanly possible. To that end, he decreed that the traditional hakafos would take place that night. He ordered that wagons be loaded with everyone’s possessions, so that after the hakafos, they could all take flight.

The Chassidim rushed to do his bidding. And when that night’s emotional service was concluded, the Rebbe removed his elaborate holiday shtreimel and donned his weekday hat. “Let us put on our Exile clothing!” he declared; and with that, he and virtually all the remaining Jews of Belz, fled across the border to the Russian-occupied zone of Poland.

The Germans were incensed that the intrepid spiritual leader of Belz – known as “the Wonder Rebbe” – along withhis followers, had escaped from their clutches. They would attempt to vent their fury upon the Belzer synagogue; but this, too, inexplicably failed. For some bizarre reason, the dynamite they set would not detonate, and their torches did not succeed in destroying the building.

SS troops unable to burn down a synagogue – how could this be? This daily ritual had become a hallmark of the Nazi invasion.

Every time-tested method of wrecking and incineration was employed to no avail. In mounting fury, the Gestapo turned to the Jews themselves. The handful of unfortunates who had remained deep in hiding inside Belz were rooted out and commanded to pull apart their precious shul, brick by brick. At gunpoint, in an acrid bath of their own sweat and tears, this is what they did.

Their captors may have had their own explanations as to why standard methods of destruction proved ineffective on the Belzer shul but the Chassidim of Belz knew the truth. The legendary founder of the dynasty, Rabbi Shalom of Belz (known as the SarShalom),had personally helped build the magnificent structure, which was dedicated in 1843 and resembled an ancient fortress – with walls that were three feet thick and a seating capacity of 5,000 worshippers.

The Sar Shalom had decreed that the soaring structure be built strictly at the hands of Jewish artisans and laborers, who carried out the project with the ultimate devotion, sacrifice and tenderness. And so it was part of their beloved Rebbe’s plan – indeed, the Divine plan – that it could only be disassembled by Jews.

The Belzer Rebbe escaped from Belz to the Russian-controlled town of Skul, where the local rabbi was his nephew. The young scholar did all he could to accommodate his uncle, and the Russians did all they could to make life miserable – including their attempt to catch the Belzer Rebbe on a host of espionage, sabotage and speculation violations.

The scrutiny the Russians placed on the Rebbe all but eliminated his ability to converse with his Chassidim. Anything he said could be twisted and construed as confirmation of seditious behavior, and NKVD spies were everywhere.

After eight months in Skul, the Russians terminated their “hospitality” and offered their standard choice to hapless refugees: adoption of Russian citizenship or expulsion. The Jews shunned citizenship of a country that banned religion, rendering them candidates for Siberian exile.

Those refusing Russian citizenship were carted off to prison camps in freezing, desolate locations – convincing them that they had made the biggest mistake of their lives. Factually, the majority of those that were sent to Siberia managed to survive the war, as they were out of “Final Solution” range.

THE Belzer Rebbe wandered from town to town after Skul, welcomed nowhere until he arrived in Premishlan. There he was afforded a modicum of comfort until the Germans attacked Russia. Premishlan fell immediately, and the Nazis wasted no time setting about their priorities. Every Jew that was discovered, including the Rebbe’s oldest son, Moshe – a brilliant and revered sage – was herded into the local synagogue and the door was sealed. In one great blaze, the living and written Torah scrolls ascended Heavenward.

The Belzer Rebbe remained in hiding as feverish activity was launched to spirit him out of the region. A lot of money changed hands, and a Polish nobleman who was an official for the Germans was bribed to take the Rebbe, his brother Mordechai (the Bilgereier Rav) and attendant Nachman Hirsh to a safer location.

The Pole insisted that the passengers remove their beards and payos before boarding his car in order to disguise their identity. Other precautions were also adopted, and the foursome drove off in the middle of the night, encountering miracle after miracle. German border police, Gestapo officers and other militia were drunk, sleeping or otherwise engaged at each step along the way, enabling the car to pass from point to point undetected.

They drove through the night until the driver dozed off, resulting in an accident that totaled the car, but left the passengers with light, albeit painful, injuries. And then -unbelievably – abandoned on a desolate road in the midst of Nazi-controlled territory in the early hours of the morning, alternate transportation and lodging were acquired.

Word reached the Tarnov ghetto that the Rebbe was injured, and a team was activated to dress his wounds and whisk him off to the tiny village of Vicziza. It was hoped that the insignificance of this obscure town would afford a modicum of shelter. This tiny village, however, had a major problem named “Spitz.”

Although Jewish, Spitz had sold his soul to the Gestapo, and it was assumed that he would reveal the Rebbe’s hiding places. The opposite, however, was the case. Spitz secured work permits for the Belzer Rebbe and his brother – documents tantamount to a new lease on life.

As this was transpiring, enterprising Eliezar Landau assumed the leadership of the slave labor camp in the Bochniya ghetto, some 35 kilometers southeast of Krakow. Landau’s sole motivation was to save the lives of his brethren, and he was modestly successful at this goal – acquiring valuable Nazi connections along the way.

Landau figured that as long as Jews were providing a valuable service, they would – at least temporarily – be kept alive. He also reasoned that the Rebbe would be far better off under his control in Bochniya than under the aegis of a Gestapo collaborator.

The Belzer Rebbe was protected under Landau’s watchful eye and crucial bribes deftly applying his connections to smuggle the Rebbe in and out of Bochniya whenever an Aktion was planned or the conditions proved too dangerous to remain there.

Yet this was but a temporary solution, as Bochniya would undoubtedly be liquidated as all the ghettos before it. An immediate plan would have to be activated to whisk the Rebbe out of harm’s way.

Rabbi Michoel Baer Weissmandl, one of the most famous and saintly heroes of the Holocaust, developed an arduous escape route that entailed traversing the Carpathian Mountains. Simultaneously, a Hungarian army officer was hired for $5,000 to implement a different scheme. The Rebbe opted for the second plan, which would involve him and his brother posing as Hungarian generals being driven home to Budapest.

The masquerade worked without a hitch all the way to Hungary. Other contingencies would have to be implemented to get the Rebbe from what eventually became Nazi-occupied Hungary to the Land of Israel.

Chodesh tov – have a pleasant month!

Letters To The Editor

1 Kislev 5767 – November 22, 2006

Kahane’s Virtues

 

   It’s quite true, as Rabbi Stephen Polter states (Letters, Nov. 17), that more people are acknowledging Rabbi Meir Kahane’s prescience, wisdom and foresight. While Rabbi Polter correctly lauds Rabbi Kahane’s virtues and designates him one of our greatest Jewish leaders, I must take issue with the advice he would have proffered to Rabbi Kahane had he been given the opportunity.
 
   Suggesting to Rabbi Kahane that he tone down his message and behave like a liberal would have been as successful as convincing a leopard to change its spots. Rabbi Kahane was a man of great integrity, courage and character, and he would never have compromised his views to gain votes or political succor.
 
   Rabbi Kahane won the love and respect of so many people because of his unabashed honesty. Politics is a business rife with scandal and corruption, leaving no room for a lonely voice in the wilderness that dares speak the truth. There is not a day that goes by that Rabbi Kahane is not sorely missed. As his visions unfold before our eyes, we long for his wisdom, his insights and his leadership.
 

Fern Sidman

Brooklyn, NY

 

Self-Centered Op-Ed

   While I am one of the many Jews thankful that the gay parade scheduled for Jerusalem did not take place, I was offended by the arrogant tone of Rabbi Yehuda Levin’s op-ed column (“We Stopped the March – For Now,” Nov. 17). I don’t doubt he put a lot of effort into stopping the parade, but he was one of many. Judging from his article, one would think that maybe two or three others helped him.
 
   I personally know of an American Jew who funded everything necessary to fight the parade – including all the buses that transported the demonstrators and their placards. But you won’t read his name anywhere because he was doing it l’shem shamayim (for the honor of Heaven).
 
   Perhaps the next time you want an op-ed column on this subject you will approach Jerusalem councilwoman Mina Fenton. She, at least, won’t be blowing her own horn.
 

Amy Wall

New York, NY

 

Reconciliation A Two-Way Street

   Rabbi Harry Maryles writes (“Time for Agudah to Widen the Tent,” op-ed, Nov. 17): “As I understand Agudah’s position, if a gadol tells you not to accept a job, it is treated as p’sak. This is one of the major differences between Agudah and those outside the Agudah camp.”
 
   For Rabbi Maryles’s edification, the distinction between p’sak and aytsah is universal and as such has nothing to do with labels or camps. (Of course, if an individual faces job-related halachic or hashkafic issues, he certainly should seek proper guidance from a competent Orthodox rabbi.)
 
   But it’s nice to know that Rabbi Maryles is striving for reconciliation. He should continue to strive for it. May I offer him some advice? (This is not a p’sak.) He should seriously consider joining Agudah. I’m sure he’ll be accepted. Of course, like everyone else, he’ll have to pay his membership dues. It’s for a good cause, though.
 
   And as long as we’re on the subject of reconciliation, why doesn’t Yeshiva University invite Agudah rabbis to address its students?
 
Chaim Silver
(Via E-Mail)

 

No Way To Treat A Lady

   I read with dismay your editorial mocking the proposed rule for amending birth certificates for people whose gender does not conform to the sex assigned to them at birth (Transgender Follies,” Nov. 17).
 
   As a parent, a grandparent, a former president of a Hebrew school and a transgender American, I’m quite disappointed. Throughout the ages, was it not fear and ignorance that led to the demonization of Jews? Now we become the “machers” who can demonize other helpless minorities? Shame!
 

Barbra Casbar

Vice-Chair

Garden State Equality

Edison, NJ

 

 


 

 

FDR And The Holocaust:

Responses To Robert Rosen

 

      Editor’s Note: The controversy generated by Robert Rosen’s Oct. 27 op-ed article “FDR Was a Hero, Not a Villain” (a riposte by Mr. Rosen to Dr. Rafael Medoff’s Oct. 6 Jewish Press front-page essay, “Whitewashing FDR on the Holocaust,” which was highly critical of Mr. Rosen’s book Saving the Jews: FDR and the Holocaust), and his reply to his critics in the Nov. 10 Letters section, continues unabated.
 

      The following letters take issue with Mr. Rosen’s Nov. 10 reply. Mr. Rosen’s response to these letters will appear in next week’s issue and will have to constitute the final word, at least for now in these pages, on the question of FDR’s Holocaust-related policies.

 

Jewish Law And Bombing Auschwitz
 
      According to Robert Rosen (Letters, Nov. 10), Jewish leaders should have opposed bombing Auschwitz because some of the Jewish prisoners might have been inadvertently harmed, which would have contradicted what he calls “the Talmudic teaching that Jews have no right to take innocent life.”
 
      That was not the issue at stake when Jewish leaders urged the Allies to bomb Auschwitz in 1944. Jewish lives were already being taken. Thousands of Jews were being gassed daily. All the Jews in the camp were doomed to be murdered, some in a matter of hours, others in a matter of days. If the Allies failed to bomb the camp, all the Jews would certainly be killed. If they bombed the camp, thus slowing down and interfering with the murder process, lives would have been saved. If I, as a rabbi, had been alive in 1944 and had been asked if rabbinic law permitted the bombing of the camp, I would have said that bombing it was not only permitted but, in fact, obligatory.
 
      It is no small matter that the Jewish inmates themselves prayed for the camp to be bombed, even though they knew they might be harmed. In his book Night, Elie Wiesel describes (pp. 70-71) his reaction when he saw U.S. planes dropping bombs on German oil factories just a few miles from the Auschwitz gas chambers:
 
      “We were not afraid. And yet, if a bomb had fallen on the blocks [the prisoners’ barracks], it alone would have claimed hundreds of victims on the spot. But we were no longer afraid of death; at any rate, not of that death. Every bomb that exploded filled us with joy and gave us new confidence in life. The raid lasted over an hour. If it could only have lasted ten times ten hours!”
 

Rabbi Robert Shechter

Passaic, NJ
 
 
FDR’s Orders
 
      In March 1944, the Nazis took control of Hungary and nearly a million more Jews fell into their hands. Shortly afterward, two young Slovakian Jews escaped from Auschwitz and managed to reach the Slovakian Jewish underground in Bratislava, one of whose leaders was Rabbi Michael Dov Weissmandl. The escapees provided a complete diagram of the layout of the death camp and dictated a 30-page report. Word was then quickly gotten to the leadership of the Hungarian Jewish community in Budapest.
 
      Mr. Rosen is correct when he says American Jewish organizations did not request the bombing of Auschwitz. It was the Jews trapped behind Nazi lines, in Hungary and Slovakia, who requested it – those with the most to gain if it were done and the most to lose if it were not. First and foremost, however, they did not request the bombing of the gas chambers and crematoria but of the rail bridges and junctions that led from Hungary to Poland. Realizing that Jewish lives alone might not be considered that valuable, they pointed out that the rail lines were also used for Nazi military transport.
 
      The rail lines could easily have been knocked out without killing any Jews. It was never done because FDR gave strict orders that there was to be no diversion of military force for the purpose of saving Jews. When asked about this time and again, he said his policy for saving Jews was to win the war as quickly as possible, which undoubtedly was his sincere intention, since the faster the war could be won the fewer American casualties there were likely to be. For all too many Jews, unfortunately, victory did not come quickly enough.
 

Harry Eisenberg

Glen Rock, NJ

 

WJC’s Position On Bombing

      Robert Rosen continues to insist, erroneously, that the World Jewish Congress “opposed the bombing of Auschwitz.”
 
      In my recent letter to The Jewish Press, I cited a letter by World Jewish Congress chairman Nahum Goldmann, dated July 3, 1944, in which Goldmann mentions that “We have discussed with the War Refugee Board the idea that the Russian and American governments be asked to look for a way to destroy these camps by bombing or any other means.”
 
      Mr. Rosen’s response: “They did discuss it. And they rejected it.” Wrong. Goldmann clearly was recommending bombing, not just “discussing” it. Goldmann argued, “This would certainly stop or at least hold up the massacres since all the infernal instruments used, such as gas chambers, vans, etc. would have to be rebuilt.” Goldmann also wrote: “The War Refugee Board will follow up the matter in Washington”; why would they follow it up if the WJCongress had decided to “reject” it, as Mr. Rosen claims?
 
      The entire letter in question is a request by Goldmann to the Czech Foreign Minister in Exile, Jan Masaryk, asking the Czechs to raise the bombing idea with Soviet officials. Why would Goldmann be doing so if the WJCongress had decided to “reject” bombing?
 
      Mr. Rosen also attempts to discredit the Goldmann letter on different grounds, claiming the letter “is dated June 4, 1944 and predates numerous letters in July and August 1944, in which the WJC adamantly opposed the bombing.” He is, simply, wrong. The letter is dated July 3, 1944. I have a photocopy of it.
 
      Mr. Rosen’s suggestion that the WJCongress changed its position and opposed bombing later in July, and in August and thereafter, is contradicted by documents in the WJCongress’s own files, which I have examined at the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati. They contain, for example, a letter dated July 21, 1944, from WJCongress official Maurice Perlzweig to the director of the War Refugee Board, John Pehle. Acting – he wrote – at Goldmann’s request, Perlzweig was sending Pehle telegrams from Richard Lichtheim (the Jewish Agency representative in Geneva) and Moshe Shertok (the London-based head of the Agency’s Political Department) calling for Allied bombing of the death camps. If, as Rosen claims, the WJCongress had already decided to oppose bombing, why were Perlzweig and Goldmann still lobbying for it?
 
      Martin Gilbert, in his book Auschwitz and the Allies, reports that in October 1944 Goldmann met with General John Dill, the British representative on the Allied High Command, to urge the Allies to bomb Auschwitz. (We know that the meeting must have taken place in the fall, because during their conversation Goldmann mentioned recent British bombings of German oil factories “a few miles” from Auschwitz – and those raids on the Monowitz oil plants began in late August.)
 
      Again: if the WJCongress had changed its position and opposed bombing, as Mr. Rosen claims, why was its chairman still lobbying Allied officials to bomb it, months after his organization supposedly changed its position?
 
      One WJCongress official, A. Leon Kubowitzki, opposed the bombing idea, urging that the Allies instead use paratroopers to attack Auschwitz. He is the only WJCongress official on record as expressing opposition to bombing. For Mr. Rosen to transform Kubowitzki’s lone opposition into a wide-ranging “opposition by the World Jewish Congress” is a severe distortion of the historical record.
 
      The WJCongress and all other major Jewish organizations made their position quite clear when they declared, in their joint resolution at the July 31, 1944 rally in New York City, that “all measures should be taken” by the Allies “to destroy the implements, facilities, and places where the Nazis have carried out their mass executions.”
 

Dr. Rafael Medoff

Director

The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies
Washington, DC

Passing The Tests Of Life

24 Heshvan 5767 – November 15, 2006
         Life is a Test, the newest book by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis (ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications) may well be her finest one to date. Readers will laugh and they will cry, but no one will remain unaffected. There is a Hebrew saying that words that emanate from the heart enter the heart of another. The inspiring words in this book are sure to enter the heart of all who read them.

 

         What is life all about? This question has crossed the minds of most people at some point in their lives. Without a clear answer, people resort to metaphors, such as, “Life is a deck of cards, and you have to deal with the hand you are dealt,” or, “Life is a marathon, and you have to come in first,” or “Life is a game,” or “Life is a stage,” or even, “It is what it is.” But these metaphors leave us cold. Not only don’t they answer the question; they leave us very unfulfilled. How can we make a difference in this world if life is just a game?

 

         To answer these questions (in fact, all questions) the Rebbetzin turns to the Torah, our instruction manual, our blueprint for life. And from the Torah we learn the definitive metaphor for life – is that it is a test. “G-d tested our patriarch Abraham” – And He continues to test each and every one of us. Everyone has been created to make a difference, and every person has been molded by G-d for a special mission that only he/she can fulfill.” It is our job to discover what our mission is.

 

         Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis does not speak in platitudes. She knows what suffering is, and she has known the depths of despair. As a young girl growing up in Hungary during World War II, she was herded, along with her family, into a ghetto and from there sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Hunger, lice and despair were the way of life there, but the strong faith in G-d that Esther’s parents had imbued in their children kept them from giving up on life. Esther and her family passed this test and went on to rebuild their lives, and in so doing, became an inspiration to thousands.

 

         The Rebbetzin was tested again 10 years ago when her beloved husband Rabbi Meshulam Jungreis was called to Heaven in the prime of his life. After his death, she tells us, she found among his papers, in his own handwriting this brief note, “A long life is not good enough, but a good life is long enough.” So taking a cue from her gentle husband’s words, she did not throw up her hands and give up; instead she went on and continues to do good with her life.

 

         Jungreis explains that the tests that G-d sends us are wake up calls to help us attain our potential. So when we are challenged with trials, and tribulations overwhelm us, instead of sinking into despair we must ask ourselves, “What is the lesson I can derive from this … What message is G-d sending me?” And as we ponder the answer, by following the Rebbetzin’s guidelines we will discover the miracle that our very lives are.

 

         Many years ago, Esther Jungreis created the organization Hineni as a means to reach out to Jews everywhere and bring them back to a life of Torah. From small beginnings Hineni has grown to a worldwide organization responsible for bringing hundreds of Jews back into the fold. Life is a Test is filled with true stories of people who came to the Rebbetzin when their lives were troubled, many in the throes of despair, whether due to illness, financial problems or wayward children. And gently, through the wise counsel she imparts to them, we too learn the lessons of the tests of life. Sometimes the words seem almost poetic, such as when she wisely reminds us that at one time or another we will all die, “But whether we go on the wings of prayer and a legacy of faith, or in regret and shame, will determine whether we continue to live on (through our children).”

 

         Those fortunate enough to have heard Rebbetzin Jungreis in person at one of her many lectures may recognize a few of the stories, but reading them adds a new dimension to them.

 

         Towards the end of the book, Jungreis tackles the questions surrounding the Holocaust. How could it happen? Where was G-d? Her answer and the astounding story she relates will give the reader much food for thought.

 

         It is always our choice to pass the tests with which we have been challenged, or to collapse and succumb to depression. Esther Jungreis’ words are so personal and so inspiring that the reader will take heart and find solace in his/her most troubled times. He/she will refer back to this book often and gain strength during the hard times as well as the good. Those who do not believe will begin to believe again, and those who have faith will find their faith strengthened. That is a pretty exceptional accomplishment for an author.

In The Quiet Brownstone Near The Danube

12 Tishri 5767 – October 4, 2006
     At first glance it looks like an ordinary brownstone. The front of the three-story building is a mixture of brown brick and painted stucco, like so many of the older buildings in Budapest. We are only a block from the Danube in the Obuda district at the foot of the Buda hills. There are plane trees in front of the building, with leaves already changing colors in the Hungarian foliage. Down the street are the remains of an old Turkish mosque, a leftover from the days of Ottoman occupation of Hungary. There are white curtains on many of the windows of the building.
 
      It is a few days before Yom Kippur, in the middle of the Ten Days of justice and judgment. It is sunny and warm. Across the street from the brownstone is the small restored Frankel Leo Street Synagogue and Jewish community center. They are located inside a courtyard, originally constructed to hide the synagogue and the Jewish families living in apartments around the yard. During World War II the courtyard was used as a stable by the Germans. The synagogue was rebuilt and rededicated in recent years. From the stairs in front of the synagogue one looks directly across at the brownstone – which happens to be the home of one of the worst war criminals of World War II still at large. He lives openly in the brown building behind the plane trees.
 
*     *     *
 
      In the early 1940’s, Hungary was allied with Nazi Germany but had not yet come under the direct control of Hitler’s Gestapo. Ruled by a fascist government of its own, Hungary’s armed forces conducted a series of atrocities against Jews and against some non-Hungarian groups. One area in which a large number of atrocities took place was Voivodina, an area now inside Serbia, but containing many ethnic Hungarians before the war.
 
      At the start of World War II, Hungary invaded the Voivodina and annexed it to Hungary. Its capital city is Novi-Sad, called Ujvidek in Hungarian. Wartime Ujbidek had a Jewish population of several thousand. They had first arrived in the area after the Ottomans had been driven from the town, and they had a magnificent synagogue.
 
      Sandor Kepiro held a doctoral degree in law when he volunteered to join the Hungarian gendarmerie. He served as captain in the militia that was stationed in Voivodina. Under his command, units of the militia massacred between 880 and 1050 Jews in Ujvidek over three days, beginning January 21, 1942. The Hungarian militia then murdered more than 2,000 others – Jews and Serbians – elsewhere in the province.
 
*     *     *
 
      The press conference is being held in the Frankel Leo community center. The event is the initiative of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The head of its Jerusalem office, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, has flown into town especially for this. Zuroff is the leading hunter of Nazi war criminals in the world today, courageously filling the shoes of the late Simon Wiesenthal. He briefly tells the audience the story of the war criminal Kepiro. And where is Kepiro today, asks Zuroff? He points out the window across the street at the brownstone. Right over there.
 
      Zuroff’s translator into Hungarian is a young Christian Hungarian woman named Szilvia Dittel. She has blond hair and blue eyes and could easily be working as a fashion model. Instead, she serves as a guide and educator in the Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest, which opened about two years ago. Before that, she attended courses at Yad Vashem. She and several others at the Center are members of the strongly pro-Israel Pentecostal Church in Hungary.
 
      I notice an old man in the room, slightly bent over, with thick glasses. He catches my attention when I come in because he and I are both wearing American-style baseball caps. Zuroff calls on the old man to come forward. The old man sits with his back to the cameras and asks that the reporters not use his name.
 
      He softly tells his story. He was six years old when the massacre took place. He and his parents were rounded up by the militia commanded by Kepiro. They were marched out onto the frozen Danube ice and lined up, stripped of clothing in the freezing cold. His parents held him in their arms, as groups of Jews were shot before their eyes. Because the Danube ice was so thick, the militiamen, intent on speeding up the killing, fired a cannon into it to break it up. Many of the Jews drowned in the waters of the Danube.
 
      He and his parents were just moments away from being murdered when suddenly the killing stopped. Kepiro had just received a direct order from his superiors to cease the executions. The boy and his parents returned to their home, only to find the boy’s grandparents murdered and lying in a puddle of blood in front of the building. The militia troops had killed the elderly of Ujvidek on the spot, not even bothering to march them out to the river bank. Other Jews were then rounded up and held in the local synagogue, and from there deported.
 
      Kepiro was the commanding officer of the militia carrying out the murders.
 
*     *     *
 
      Kepiro was tried twice for the mass murders. In 1944, the Hungarian government tried him and several other militia officers, but on the reduced charge of “causing embarrassment to the military and the state.” He was convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison. But the sentence was never served. The German army seized control of Hungary shortly thereafter and revoked the sentences.
 
      At the end of the war, Kepiro went into hiding for three years in Austria. He was tried in absentia in Hungary in 1946 and sentenced to 14 years. When things got too hot in Austria, he escaped to Argentina, where he lived until 1996. Then he returned to Budapest, living under his real name just across the street from the synagogue.
 
      He is elderly now, but healthy and energetic. He throws parties for other residents living in his building. Efraim Zuroff and his team had uncovered his whereabouts while investigating other ongoing cases, as part of what the Wiesenthal Center calls “Operation Last Chance.”
 
      Kepiro’s name is on the list of doorbell buttons at the entrance to the brownstone. The front door is suddenly opened by one of the residents, curious to see what all the ruckus outside is about. The camera crews pounce on her. Did you know you were living next to a genocidal murderer? ask the dozen reporters in Magyar unison. She shrugs and says she knew her neighbor had been in the gendarmerie, and adds – somewhat enigmatically – that she knows what took place in the war.
 
      This past August, Zuroff and the Wiesenthal people submitted the evidence they had amassed on Kepiro to the Hungarian State Prosecutor. But since then the Hungarian Prosecutor’s Office and other government officials have been dragging there feet, stonewalling, inventing one excuse after another for why they cannot toss Kepiro into prison.
 
      The 1944 conviction of Kepiro was for “embarrassing the state,” not for crimes against humanity, and so is subject to a statute of limitations. The 1946 conviction was for mass murder, but because the trial was in absentia, Hungarian law requires a retrial.
 
      Meanwhile, Kepiro is free as a sparrow, throwing parties for the neighbors, enjoying a nice view of the Buda Hills and the synagogue. The Hungarian government is talking about starting a new investigation from scratch.
 
      Zuroff and his people have submitted files for prosecution against 91 war criminals in Europe and are currently building cases for 450 more. Zuroff himself not only leads the hunt for the murderers, but is also a highly prolific writer, author of many articles and books, mainly about the Shoah. Perhaps his best known and also his most controversial is a 1999 book about the responses and activities of the Orthodox community in the United States during the Holocaust.
 
      The reporters and TV crews listen in quiet awe as Zuroff explains the importance of taking action at once against Kepiro. Each day that Kepiro is still free is one day more of injustice, one day less in which Kepiro will pay for his crimes, and one more day in which the conscience and honor of Hungary is besmirched. The Wiesenthal people have demanded that Kepiro at least be placed under house arrest pending prosecution. He has not been.
 
      Szilvia Dittel has spent the recent weeks working with the Wiesenthal people to prepare the press campaign. By the evening after the press conference, her sense of achievement has grown. A Hungarian Supreme Court justice has just spoken out about Kepiro, and there are reports that Serbia may file an extradition request.
 

      Will justice be done regarding Kepiro? Perhaps, says Zuroff dejectedly, but so far there have been no concrete steps taken to make that happen.

 

 

      Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

The Lisker Congregation: Determined Chassidus

2 Elul 5763 – August 30, 2003

The Lisker Congregation is located at

163 East 69th Street, New York, N.Y. 10021.
Phone: (212) 473-3968.


 

Rav Shlomo Friedlander, z”l, the fourth Lisker Rav, had a vision. As he saw his Bronx congregation dwindle in the 1960’s subject to forces beyond his control, he knew he would have to eventually move to a new shul. Rabbi Friedlander, had already once salvaged his chassidic dynasty from Olaszliszka, Hungary after the Holocaust and had built a new community in the Bronx. Now, he patiently waited until the last congregant left the neighborhood and then, in 1976, relocated his shul to 163 East 69th Street.

He was met with some hostility in his new neighborhood. (The sight of chassidim on East 69th Street was not common) and considerable incredulity from fellow chassidim in Brooklyn
who asked how he could move to such a non-Jewish neighborhood. Nevertheless, he persisted in his burning vision, strengthened by the support of his wife, daughter and son-in-law. Through their tireless efforts the fundamental concepts of Bikur Cholim, Hachnossas Orchim and Hatzalah would soon flourish on the Upper East Side by means of the little shul he founded.

Rav Shlomo built this island of chesed by physically transferring a piece of the Bronx to East
69th Street, artifact by artifact. With the help of his son-in-law, Rav Abraham, he succeeded in creating an authentic Hungarian chassidic shul filled with the memories of the Old World. First, they started with the things they could save from their own shul and then searched the Bronx for the discarded remnants of closed shuls, often finding them on the streets or in junkyards. Piece by piece, the interior of the former carriage house became a real shul.

When approaching the shul, one is immediately struck by the massive bronze entrance doors, a modern exception to the eclectic interior. The doors, designed by Rav Abraham and a
curator at the Jewish Museum in 1979, are an elegant rendering of the Ten Commandments in
modern, Hebrew characters alef through yud. Entering the sanctuary light and color overwhelm the walls of practical wood paneling. The women’s section is separated by a wall of six large, stained glass windows. Two central windows on the long wall are from the original Lisker shul on 182nd Street and the Grand Concourse, and the others have been collected from other Bronx sanctuaries. Two ornate glass chandeliers illuminate the inside of the women’s section and thereby set the tone for the majority of the synagogue light fixtures, expressing the traditional Hungarian weakness for this particular Middle European mode of decoration.

The men’s section is lit by at least eight chandeliers each radiating a pure white light. The brass bimah from the original shul, formed by an open grillwork of six Magen Davids, is accented
at each corner by a stanchion of five lights, two of them capped by a cone shaped miniature
chandeliers. An ornate blaze of shimmering glass lights the bimah from above, evoking the
atmosphere of a grand ballroom. Dozens of crystals descend in long loops to a ring of alternating sconces. Beneath the brass ring of sconces crystal slivers form an inverted bowl to refract the light all around this extravagant chandelier from the Grand Concourse. The Torah was never so well honored.

Rav Shlomo’s artistic sensibility found its fullest expression in the design of the ark. The polished and decorated urn of the ner tamid (eternal light) set off to the right side, was brought
from the original synagogue in the Bronx. The beautiful Art Deco bronze ark doors have a
soothing floral motif that beckons to the richness of Torah found within. They were found in the East Bronx. Surmounting the ark are two carved wooden lions that present the Luchos (Ten Commandments) crowned, echoing the legend over the doors, Holy To Hashem.

The sanctuary is a paradoxical combination of visual ostentation, Middle European decoration and the utmost humility. The seating is plain, the walls simply paneled and yet the lighting above glistens. Initially, Rav Shlomo had his office behind the sanctuary in a modest add-on room. But creativity was constantly brewing here and Rav Abraham, his son-in-law, conceived of installing a large skylight that could be cranked open to make the space into a
community Succah. To decorate this succah he commissioned an Italian glass chandelier from
Murano, Venice. It hangs in all its excessive Italian glory, clusters of white and purple glass
grapes surrounded by green and red glass leaves. The succah stands at the ready all year round, constantly reminding those who sit and study under the lovely skylight that the holiday is forever approaching.

The room is decorated with paintings and posters of various Torah personalities, not the least of which is the Akeidas Yitzhak by Morris Katz. Normally this artist’s works are notable only
for their carefree and speedy execution, but this painting is a welcome exception. Under an
enormous sky the tallis-clad patriarch Abraham stands in profile, ready to slaughter his son. Isaac is lies stiffly face up, covered only by another Tallis. And out of a bush on the left, a classical angel with a brilliant red robe orders Abraham to stop. In this frozen moment, the balanced tension between the human and the Divine will, with Isaac acting as a rigid fulcrum, casts this narrative into excruciating relief. In the lowest register, four figures remind us of the Succah holiday. The juxtaposition of Succoth and the Akeidah (normally associated with Rosh Hashanah) reminds us our dependence on the merits of our forefathers when we pray for the mercy of the Ribbono shel Olam.

The history of the Lisker Congregation stretches back to 1830 in Olaszliszka, Hungary. The founder of the Lisker chassidus was Rabbi Zvi-Hersh Friedman (1808-1874), a great scholar
and baal chesed. He nurtured the early congregation involved in wine production and trade in the area famous for the Tokay Hungarian wines. The original synagogue was a grand affair, able to seat 500 people. It survived until it was destroyed, along with the majority of its congregation, in the Holocaust. The third Lisker Rebbe, Zvi-Hirsh Friedlander, refused to flee the murderous onslaught and abandon his congregation. He told his son, Rav Shlomo, “I know you will be saved and carry on as a designate to me from now on.” Rav Shlomo survived and moved the congregation to the Bronx after the War.

When Rav Shlomo moved to East 69th Street, he recreated much more than a Hungarian shul. He established the Hershel Lisker Bikur Cholim to visit the sick and provide lodging and food
to those visiting patients in the many neighborhood hospitals. They have provided, to the Jewish sick and their friends and relatives for over 25 years, a desperately needed island of Jewish hospitality and care, along with a warm and friendly shul in which to daven. Three rooms upstairs from the shul accommodate visitors. The current Lisker Rebbe, Zvi-Hersh Friedlander, continues the tradition established by his grandfather, Rav Shlomo; his father, Rav Abraham; and his mother, Rebbetzin Judith Friedlander.

All of them were or are official chaplains at the neighborhood hospitals including Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York Hospital, Lenox Hill Hospital and The Hospital for
Special Surgery, tirelessly serving the sick and needy. In addition the Lisker Congregation has
attempted to perpetuate another mitzva they championed in the Bronx. The Bronx shul had a
mikveh in the basement and they have endeavored to create a mikveh in the current building.
Unfortunately it remains unfinished due to lack of adequate funding. They are currently looking
for a sponsor for this praiseworthy and essential project.

The Lisker Congregation has come a long way from the heart of Hungary, a sojourn in the
Bronx and finally to the Upper East Side of Manhattan, continually serving the Jewish people.
They seem to understand, as evidenced by their lovely synagogue, glittering with chandeliers and stained glass, and continual community service, that the needs of body and soul, the eye and the heart, are equally demanding and once fulfilled, equally nourishing.


Richard McBee is a painter of Torah subject matter and writer on Jewish Art. Please feel free to contact him with comments at richardmcbee.com

Letters To The Editor

10 Av 5763 – August 8, 2003

Joe On Joe

The June issue of Reader’s Digest featured an interview with actor Harrison Ford. He was asked, “Your father was Roman Catholic, your mother Jewish. Which faith were you raised in?” Ford responded, “I was raised Democratic.” Harrison affirmed that he too shares the
politics of his father, and went on to say that being a Democrat supplied a “complete worldview” for him.

What is most disturbing about these statements is that they demonstrate the tragic phenomenon that has devastated and continues to afflict our whole nation. Scores of Jewish souls have been lost to the Democratic Party and its “worldview,” as have many millions to other political movements that are antithetical to the ways of Torah.

One of the nine Democrats currently seeking the party’s presidential nomination is Joseph Lieberman, a purportly observant Jew who has publicly stated that intermarriage is permitted by Jewish law. Unless Lieberman recants his statement on intermarriage he poses a very serious spiritual threat to us Jews, and any Jew who it is a registered Democrat (a mistake in itself) should vote for anyone but him.

Whether or not one is comfortable with it, the fact is that many Jews look upon Senator Lieberman as a role model. That is precisely why he should be held accountable for any misleading statements he makes.

Joseph Lieberman
Brooklyn, NY


EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer was recently profiled – on the same day – by both The New York Times and New York Sun. In addition to having the same name as the senator, his wife,
like the senator’s wife, is named Hadassah. Brooklyn Joe Lieberman has published a new book, the title of which – ‘Joseph Lieberman is a Pious Liberal (and Other Observations)’ – refers, of course, to Washington Joe Lieberman.


Road Map To Where?

Giving control of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority was a serious mistake. This will allow Hamas to regroup, rearm, and plan further attacks. Giving up Bethlehem was even worse because of its proximity to Jerusalem. Releasing terrorists from jail in response to Hamas blackmail is a complete no-brainer.

As a young man Ariel Sharon was a great warrior, but as an old politician he is a complete wimp. Its time to retire Sharon to his farm where he can grow cucumbers and tomatoes. At least there he will be doing something beneficial for the people of Israel.

As for President Bush, we must let him know that we are unhappy with the road map. Evangelical Christians write him thousands of letters every week telling him just that – and we in the Jewish community should certainly be doing the same.

(Rabbi) Yakov Lazaros
Framingham, MA



Don’t Pick On Poor Tom Friedman

Professor Howard Adelson’s focused criticism of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman (Jewish Press, July 4), is really most unfair. It is obvious to anyone who ever read Mr. Friedman’s columns that he lives a fantasy existence, ensconced in an ivory tower where
he spends long hours writing imaginary truths. From there, those sacred scripts are rushed to the editors of the ‘world’s greatest newspaper’ whose creed is truth and integrity.

Professor Adelson, I ask you to be more fair and considerate. Stop trying to convince them with facts. Their minds are made up and they become provoked and agitated when contradicted. I also ask you to remember how only a short time ago the exalted Times demonstrated a willingness to live up to the principle of that well-known proverb, “Be sincere … whether you mean it or not.” Did the paper not apologize and fire one of its top writers after years of his plagiarism and contrived falsehoods?

Mr. Friedman and the editors of the Times have a tough enough time maintaining their fantasies on a daily basis. How unfair of you, Professor Adelson, to come, uninvited, with all your evidence to demolish their hard work.

I would like to see you re-direct your remarkable talents toward unlocking one of the great mysteries of our age – why a seemingly savvy and intelligent reading public continues to read The New York Times and Thomas Friedman.

By the way, I almost forgot to thank you.

Norman Shine
Brooklyn, NY


Trust And Kashrus

Re the letter to the editor titled ‘Kosher Conundrum’ in the July 4 issue of The Jewish Press:

I do not at all share the author’s concern with products under multiple supervision.

Kosher supervision revolves to a large degree on trust (ne’emunus). When multiple kashrus organizations give a hechsher on a product, they have developed a working relationship, with kosher standards on which they agree and a mashgiach whom they trust to enforce those standards. Having multiple supervisors is economically unfeasible, unpractical, and simply unnecessary.

From my own experience in hashgocha, I have seen food processors use ingredients with kosher supervision from organizations other than the one supervising their particular product. Reliable kashrus organizations are careful in their approval of other kashrus organizations.

Yisroel Friedman
Rochester, NY


Thumbs Up For Passover Vacations

In response to Dr. Yaakov Stern’s comments regarding Passover vacations (Letters, July 4), I would like to say “sour grapes!” This past Passover was the first time my family had an opportunity to go away. Indeed, we were able to perform all of the mitzvot of Passover. There were no “bikini-clad beach bimbos,” nor was our motivation for going away a need for entertainment. At the conclusion of each seder, I was able to walk to our room feeling relaxed. We were able to join with others in learning, davening, and truly appreciating the Passover
holiday in a relaxed and pleasant environment.

I wonder if Dr. Stern has ever participated in the preparations for Passover – the cleaning, the shopping, the cooking, the serving? By the time the holiday starts, most women are exhausted – and then come eight long days in the kitchen! Any man who truly cares about his wife would be pleased to take his family away for Passover so that everyone has an opportunity to celebrate the freedom represented by the holiday.

Shoshana Borovetz
Philadelphia, PA



Political Brawl

I must say I was amused by the news that Assemblyman Dov Hikind filed a lawsuit to stop Noach Dear from running to reclaim his (Dear’s) old City Council seat (“Hikind Files Suit To Bar Dear Election Bid,” Jewish Press, July 4).

While I am fully aware that the current holder of Dear’s old seat, Simcha Felder, is, as The Jewish Press politely phrased it, Hikind’s “prot?g?,” I burst out laughing when I read that Hikind, not Felder, was challenging Dear’s candidacy in court with the claim that Dear was “term limited.” Moreover, despite the fact that one cannot get through a week without reading in some Jewish newspaper a joint statement issued by Hikind/ Felder, I did not see a single story about Hikind’s lawsuit in which Felder was quoted. It was Hikind, only Hikind.

And then when I learned later in the week that the lawsuit had been dismissed because it was brought too early, I quite literally had to sit down. Imagine – Dov Hikind acting with undue haste in order to make headlines! Now ain’t that a kick in the head?

Alan Weinberg
Brooklyn, NY



Historical Corrections

In his recent discussion of the history of the Shiff shul and its successor kehilla in the U.S., ‘Machberes’ columnist Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum made several statements that need clarification.

The first rabbi of the Shiff shul in Vienna, Rabbi Solomon Zalman Spitzer, was not only a disciple of the Ktav Sofer, but more importantly he was the son in law of the Chatam Sofer (father of the Ktav Sofer), Rav Moshe Sofer.

As such, this kehilla had a direct connection with the founder of Hungarian Orthodoxy.

Rabbi Tannenbaum stated that the kehilla’s first rav in Brooklyn was Rabbi Yonason Steif, whom he describe as “rosh beth din of Budapest, the highest rabbinical office in Hungary and effectively chief rabbi of Hungary.” This is a highly problematic statement, as Rabbi Steif was officially a senior dayan in Budapest not rosh beth din (See Shem Hagedolim Hashlishi Leretz Hagar, Budapest, 1941). He served as senior dayan together with R. Israel Welcz. The rosh beth din was R. Efraim Fishel Zussman Sofer.

While R. Steif may indeed have assumed the role of rosh bet din as the fateful year of 1944 approached, he was not such for most of his tenure in Pest. The position of rosh bet din was not the position of chief rabbi of Budapest. The last incumbent to hold that office was Rav Koppel Reich, who died in 1929. After his death the position of Orthodox chief rabbi was never filled again. I may note here that the Neolog [non-Orthodox] chief rabbi was Rabbi Dr. Simon Hevesi, the grandfather of New York State Controller Alan Hevesi.

Thus while Rabbi Steif was a leading Hungarian posek and gaon, he was not involved in national Jewish community affairs and was one of a number of senior halachic authorities throughout Hungary. Hence it is an error to refer to him as the de facto Orthodox chief rabbi.

Let me conclude by adding that Rabbi Yeshaya Fuerst survived the war in London. Upon hearing that a number of former congregants had re-created the Shiff shul in Brooklyn, he congratulated them but criticized their choice of name (Khal Adas Yereim – Congregation of
G-d fearers) as implying that the other Jews in Brooklyn were not such. The name of the kehilla in Vienna was Adath Israel.

Zalman Alpert
Reference Librarian
Gottesman Library
Yeshiva University



More On Discrimination Against Baalei Teshuvah, Geirim

Some letter-writers have defended bias against ba’alei teshuvah and geirim in the shidduch scene. Noted rabbis have done the same. That tremendous bias exists is undeniable. That
such bias runs completely counter to Torah ideals is irrefutable, as I shall demonstrate.

The anecdotal evidence in favor of their marriageability – Moshe, Yehoshua, Ruth, Rabbi
Akiva, Shemaya and Avtalyon – is strong, and has already been discussed. Some people choose to deflect this evidence, claiming that these exceptions are “only for the gedolim”  (whatever that’s supposed to mean). Thankfully, there is further evidence that should remove any doubt once and for all.

I refer readers to the following sources:

1) Vayikra Rabba (20:10), also found in the Tanchuma on Parshas Acharei Mos. Rabbi Levi
writes that Nadav and Avihu were arrogant, and this arrogance contributed to their downfall. Many women dreamed of marrying these great leaders, but Nadav and Avihu refused them all. “Our uncle, Moshe, is the king,” they said. “Our father, Aharon, is the kohen gadol, and we are his assistants. What woman is good enough for us?” They never married, and were held accountable for their elitism. Even those with the greatest yichus may not exalt themselves over others.

2) The last Mishna in Masekes Horayos. We are taught that a mamzer who is a talmid chacham takes precedence over a kohen gadol who is an am ha’aretz. Yichus, thus, is only a tiebreaker when midos and chochma are equal (the Rambam in his pirush writes this openly).

3) The fourth perek of Masekes Geirim (and elsewhere). The Torah commands us not to oppress geirim, and the Gemara explains that this refers to reminding them about their past lifestyle. What more poignant reminder is there than the denial of suitable shidduchim?

4) Sefer Chinuch (Mitzva 563). Jews of pure lineage are forbidden to marry converts from the
nation of Edom until the third generation. The Chinuch writes in no uncertain terms that one who refuses to consider marrying a third-generation convert from Edom, either because the nation of Edom caused trouble for the Jews, or simply because he is biased against converts, is in violation of a biblical prohibition. Kal va’chomer, I would submit that those who harbor bias against ba’alei teshuvah, people born with kedushas am Yisrael, are in violation of this commandment. Those who are cling to every publicly observable chumra, who look for things to be concerned about when it comes to kashrus, would do well not to disregard the unambiguous words of this rishon.

In sum, the Torah’s position on ba’alei teshuvah and geirim is clear – they must be given the exact same consideration in the shidduch scene as so-called FFBs. The spirit of the law is also clear – one is simply not allowed to stereotype or generalize. Every person must be given unbiased consideration and judged on his individual merits, his internal merits. To judge someone based on background, externals, or “percentages” might be convenient – but the Torah forbids it.

Only by bravely following Torah principles can we successfully address the disastrous
shidduch scene.

Chananya Weissman
Far Rockaway, NY
Founder, Endthemadness.org




Haredim And Israel: An Emerging Appreciation

Just when I’d lost hope in my generation, a Shabbos in a particular section of New York has
restored my faith in frum GenXers. Let me explain.

A particular brand of frumkeit and culture held sway throughout my adolescence and early
20’s, and nearly all of my contemporaries found it irresistible.

Now in their thirties, these GenXers are energetic professionals or businessmen, who retain
for dear life the external icons of their yeshiva youth. Their Hebrew pronunciation still includes
the oy for the cholom that they adopted in high school (as in Ess-roy-g). Now a financial analyst on Wall Street, Laizer (pronounced Lay-zuh) still feels compelled to wear his black hat, and insists on maintaining a sefira beard – shave l’kavod Shabbos? Chas v’shalom! Laizer, you see, if a ben Toy-ra.

But of course Laizer is still very much a GenXer, and partakes in much of the allowable fun
America has to offer: kosher cruises to the Bahamas, SUVs, and shtaty clothes. Laizer’s wife
wears a $3,000 custom sheitel. Laizer often makes it a Blockbuster night.

For Laizer, the challenge of frumkeit and observance is largely a matter of the conflict
between personal pleasure and personal religious duty.

Like many of their gentile contemporaries, frum-GenXers seem to pay little attention to
history. The uniqueness of the time in which we live seems lost to them, as do communal matters.

Or so I thought.

Perhaps it was the events of the last couple of years that have shaken so many of these Laizers
into – are you sitting? – an affinity toward Zionism!

You see, I spent a Shabbos davening in a black hat GenX shul in the New York area. Of the
well over 100 mispallelim (I’m told that half of the members had not yet returned from the Pesach hotels in Florida and elsewhere), maybe five looked over the age of 35. There was little communal singing – certainly no Young Israel-style singing for hotza v’hachnasa. Borsalino hats were hanging on hooks on the wall, and oys and fierce shukling were everywhere.

But, to my astonishment, a mishebayrach was made for chayalei Tzahal, and to my further
amazement, the tefilla for shaloym hamedina – Medinas Yisroyel ? was said! All this, by a
Lakewood-graduate gabbai. Apparently there is even some talk of simultaneous aliyah of several families.

The shul’s rav, who is a staunch advocate of black-hat frumkeit, once remarked to my host –
who had expressed amazement at the former’s unseemly adoption of Zionist-friendly positions – the following gem: “It is not too difficult to love Eretz Yisroel, but I love Medinas Yisroel too.”

Something is afoot here – something that has developed organically, and that has not been
dictated from up on high (i.e., not via Daas Torah). The grassroots has apparently come to value the State of Israel. Having long ago dismissed the B’nai-Akiva route to Zionism as watered-down frumkeit and passe nostalgia for a foreign culture of farming and hora dancing, the frum GenXers have found their own way.

The land and milieu of “Chop a Nosh” and “Mendy the Mezonos Maven” has yet produced
Zionists.

As documented by Yoram Hazony, the 1990’s saw the utter dissolution of secular Zionism. The dogmas, beliefs, and associated culture of a once predominate ideology became the object of scorn. In a similar yet different fashion the next decade will see a major change in haredi beliefs and culture, here in the U.S. and in Israel. It will no longer be a steera to be black-hat/haredi – and to appreciate, support, and contribute to the medina. In fact, it will be a badge of honor.

Shmuel Frankel
(Via E-Mail)


EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer maintains a blog at Frum Talk (www.frumtalk.blogspot.com).


Four Years Later, Busch Shooting Still Resonates

Believing The Worst

In a letter to the editor last week, reader Michael Steinhart criticized The Jewish Press for
continuing to ask questions about the fatal shooting of Gidone Busch in Boro Park on August
30, 1999. Mr. Steinhart has no doubts about the version of events put forward by then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani – namely that Mr. Busch was a crazy man lashing out at police with a claw hammer. When pepper spray failed to stop him, officers had no choice but to use lethal force.

If Mr. Steinhart had taken the time to look into this incident, he would have found that numerous eyewitnesses deny that anything like this occurred. As they have described it, it wasn’t Gidone Busch who was out of control; it was the police – the six or more of them (the exact number, like so much else about this case, is in dispute) who backed Mr. Busch into a wall and shot him 12 times.

I am grateful to and proud of The Jewish Press for refusing to forget about Gidone Busch. I
hope you will continue to report on the efforts being made by U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Assemblyman Dov Hikind, and others to reopen the case. It’s shameful that none of New York’s other Jewish journals seem to care.

Harvey Blume
Cambridge MA



Questions About Case Are Justified

Michael Steinhart’s letter accuses me of “playing the race card” in questioning whether Gidone Busch was given prejudicial treatment by certain Jewish community leaders on account of
his status as a baal teshuvah, and then goes on to parrot the media’s portrayal of the late Mr. Busch as a dangerous and unstable psychopathic menace.

When the story of Gidone Busch’s death first broke, a part of me held out great hope that a
mistake had been made, and that he was still alive and well; for the monster described in the press was not the same Gidone Busch I knew: an astute, witty and personable young man who had been a frequent and familiar visitor to my community and congregation, and who had davened only a few seats away from me a few short weeks before.

Unfortunately, the victim was the same Gidone Busch whose company we had come to enjoy, except that the news media had put an extremely negative slant on his mental condition. Gidone Busch’s name rarely appeared in the press without being accompanied by adjectives such as “mentally disturbed” or “hammer-wielding” (or even, as used in Yated Ne’eman, “mentally deranged.”). While such descriptive words may be true in the strict technical sense, their use in the news stories served to paint a contorted and corrupt image of Gidone Busch. And that played right into the hands of the New York Police Department, for it gave an air of justification to the brutal killing of Gidone.

We should, of course, be very selective in second-guessing our police officers’ on-the-spot line of duty decisions. But in light of some impossible to ignore evidence of a police cover-up that has come out in the Busch family’s lawsuit against the NYPD, the best that can be said about those Jewish leaders who justified the killing of Gidone Busch is that they unwittingly became stooges to further the NYPD’s questionable agenda.

Now, I certainly do not accuse any Jewish leaders who happen to be frum from birth of any
deliberate ill intent towards the baalei teshuvah. But just as Jews born and raised in assimilated
American homes have been ingrained with certain inaccurate and negative images of religious Jews, there can be little doubt that Jews who are frum from birth carry certain biases regarding non- observant Jews, and such biases can exist in ways that their bearers do not realize.

In addition to whatever individual experiences they may have had, baalei teshuvah have received many mixed messages from the local FFB leadership. There was the message that the law enforcement apparatus ought not criminally punish a certain FFB woman who, on account of her suffering from Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy, caused the death of her own child, but that the law enforcement apparatus was justified in killing Gidone Busch, a baal teshuvah who also had mental health issues. The same FFB rabbis whose followers have taken to public protest in support of their own causes have forbidden similar protest over the killing a baal teshuvah named Gidone Busch. And, as mentioned previously, the most denigrating adjective used in reporting the Gidone Busch story was printed not in the secular press, but in a decidedly and unabashedly hard-line Orthodox Jewish newspaper.

Given all of this, it is entirely appropriate to ask whether some subconscious bias played a role
in the way certain FFB Jewish leadership handled the Gidone Busch affair. And that is precisely what my prior letter did.

As for Mr. Steinhart’s contention that The Jewish Press is “wrong-headed” to continue reporting developments in the Gidone Busch story: if reprisal of the Gidone Busch story is
“wrong-headed” then it is six million times as wrong-headed to keep dredging up the Holocaust which occurred in Europe over a half century ago. And just as the magic disappearance of all Holocaust articles from the news media would further certain agendas, so too would the disappearance of the Gidone Busch story from the news media.

Mr. Steinhart admonishes that we let Gidone Busch rest in peace. Though Gidone lies buried in the cemetery (I happen to be one of the men who physically carried his casket to the burial), he cannot rest in peace until certain accountability questions regarding the NYPD and the Jewish community are answered.

As The Jewish Press obviously realizes, Gidone Busch’s death is still a very live issue, if only because there is an active lawsuit now moving towards what will likely be a well-watched trial.

Kenneth H. Ryesky (Esq.)
East Northport, NY

Yesterday And Today

5 Iyyar 5763 – May 7, 2003

I was recently invited to speak to our Jewish brethren in Australia. Prior to my arrival in Sydney, I received a phone call from a local resident asking if I could find a few minutes during my stay to visit her elderly, ailing father. She went on to explain that as a young man, her father had been in a slave labor camp in Szeged, the city of my birth in Hungary, where my father, Rabbi Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt’l, was the Chief Orthodox Rabbi. Prior to our deportation to the concentration camps, the Hungarians conscripted all the Jewish young men for slave labor, and our city, Szeged, was one of the major gathering places in which they were assembled prior to being shipped out.

As the rabbi of the city, my father was able to obtain permission to visit these boys daily to bring them messages from home and impart words of Torah and hope. My father would also smuggle in medication and letters from family, but since he was searched, this was no easy task. My mother came up with the novel ideal of sending my brother and me along and secreting these items in the linings of our coats, so at a tender age, we were initiated into the meaning of ahavas Yisroel (love of fellow Jews). We saw with our own eyes the total mesiras nefesh – commitment – of our parents to every Jew, and that experience left an indelible impression on our souls. My father not only visited those young men, but he also managed to obtain permission for them to have brief furloughs so that they might visit our home. My mother cooked and baked for them while my father studied Torah with them, enveloped them in his love and blessed them.

From time to time in my travels throughout the world, I meet an elderly Yid who was one of those boys to whom my parents so caringly reached out in that time of darkness, and now I discovered that Sydney, Australia would be no exception. My caller related that her father had been among those who came to us regularly so that he might put on Tefillin. She went on to say that he remembered me opening the door for him and running excitedly to my father exclaiming, “The soldier has come to put on Tefillin!” Memories rushed back. It happened so long ago, but for all that, it could have been today. Those painful years remain deeply etched on my heart.. “B’ezras HaShem,” I told her, “of course I will visit your father. It will be my privilege to do so.”

And so it was that on my first day in Sydney, I went to visit Reb Modche Weiss. He related story after story about the amazing chesed of my parents. My eyes brimmed over with tears. To hear stories about your mother and father who are now in Gan Eden is like receiving personal regards and brachas – blessings – from them.

I share this with you so that we may remain ever mindful of the importance of imparting a story about a zeide or a bubbie, a mother or a father. If you knew someone’s parents or grandparents, if you experienced their chesed and Torah, don’t keep it to yourself. Search out their children and relate it to them. It will give them new chiyus – life.

Stories about my parents and grandparents are legion. They energize me and inspire me to continue to speak, teach, and reach out. But it is not only the past that invigorates me. The amazing people I meet in every Jewish community give me the incentive to go on. I visited Sydney at the invitation of the Jewish Learning Center founded and directed by Rabbi David Blackman, a young, dynamic force and powerful Torah teacher. In Melbourne, this same program is led by a group of committed balabatim spearheaded by Merv Adler. They are all businessmen who voluntarily give of themselves to organize Torah programs for the Jewish community.

I last visited Sydney approximately 27 years ago, when Rabbi Michael Alony invited me to speak and help found Hineni of Australia, and now I was truly elated to learn that during these past 27 years, Hineni has flourished and grown, not only in Sydney, but in Melbourne as well. It was sheer nachas for me to meet young people who proudly identified themselves as members of the Hineni of Australia group. I met some of these young people at a Shabbos evening dinner celebrated at the Central Synagogue, where Rabbi Levi Wolff (formerly of the United States) is the loved spiritual leader. The young “Rosh” – Head of Hineni told me that the original bumper stickers that I brought with me more than a quarter of a century ago are still in their office.

In Melbourne, a woman approached me and told me that her son, who is one of Hineni’s leaders (but was currently out of the country) asked her to come to convey appreciation for the work of Hineni. It was through Hineni that he and his group became shomrei mitzvot, and Baruch Hashem, he plans to marry very shortly and establish a true Torah home.

Hineni in Melbourne is hosted in the beautiful synagogue of Rabbi Heilbrun, who graciously
welcomed us and made us feel at home. It is a special feeling of nachas to see such peiros – fruits of our labors.

During my week in Australia I had the zechus to address constantly growing audiences – the young as well as the old. But more than the size of the audiences, the genuine commitment to Torah and Yiddishkeit – the sincere yearning to learn and do more, was most exhilarating. We are living in incredible times. Our people are coming home.

Zion Without Judaism

17 Kislev 5763 – November 22, 2002

(First of Two Parts)

While there is of course more than one way to look at the last two centuries of Jewish life on the planet, one instructive way to summarize them might be as a two-hundred year search for an alternative to traditional Orthodoxy.

Beginning with the Haskala (Enlightenment) movement and the partial, or in some places total, emancipation of Jews from the constrictions of the ghetto, Jews faced the dilemma of how to deal with modernity and “rationality,” particularly in such matters as technology, science, and higher education. The dilemma of how to adapt Judaism to the modern era and how to merge it with modernity was particularly sharp in Western Europe and North America, but played a role elsewhere as well.

The attempts to resolve the dilemma took five principal forms:

* Assimilation

* Quasi-assimilation in the form of radical reformation of Judaism

* Diminution of Judaism while conscripting Jews for Non-Jewish political movements

* Secular Zionism

* Modern Orthodoxy.

Before taking them on one by one, let us note that not all Jews felt the need to attempt to resolve the conflict between Orthodoxy and modernity. Large numbers of those popularly referred to as ultra-Orthodox (or haredim) resolved the dilemma by defying modernity altogether or seeking to minimize its presence in their lives. Their attitude might best have been summed up by Rabbi Moses Sofer of Pressburg: “All that is new is prohibited by the Torah.”

Their resolution of the dilemma took the form of refusal to adopt modern dress, lifestyle, and often even language. Yiddish-speaking haredim are still to be found everywhere from Brooklyn to Meah Shearim, often living in homes where there is no television, no radio, no Internet connection; where no form of higher education or training besides yeshiva study is pursued, where Darwin and astronomy do not exist; in short, where an embargo on modernity in most of its forms takes place.

The pole diametrically opposite to the rejection of modernity by haredim is the secularist extremism of modern Jewish assimilationists. These resolve the dilemma by rejecting all forms of Jewish tradition and embracing modernity and “progress,” not to mention consumerism, as its replacement.

Between the two extremes are those who have searched and attempted to develop and proffer various forms of blending of Jewish tradition with modernity. And all of these forms have failed in one way or another.

Trying To Blend

Perhaps the most commonplace form of “blending” in the Diaspora is the adaptation of Jewish tradition to modernity through religious reform. This has taken many forms. In its earliest manifestations in Europe and especially Germany, this took the form of adopting outer symbols and signs of modernity while maintaining a total commitment to Rabbinic, i.e., halachic, Judaism.

In the vision of Moses Mendelsohn and others, Jews would maintain their traditions while dressing in modern fashion, speaking German or whatever was the language of their surroundings, learning modern trades and professions, making synagogues less “backward” looking, making Jewish prayer less boisterous and disorderly and “offensive” to gentile

sensitivities, etc.

However, such modest tampering gave way within a generation to “reforms” so radical that the European reformers themselves often were indiscernible from the full assimilationists. Jews would move their Sabbath to Sunday, would refrain from circumcision, would abandon all observance of kosher eating laws, would pray in the language of whichever country in which they happened to live, would cease to attend separate Jewish schools, and so on. Some of the more radical reformers eventually converted to Christianity.

The radical reformers of tradition also were commonly involved in another effort to merge Jewish tradition in some form with modernity — namely, conscripting Jews into non-Jewish patriotic or political movements of one sort or another. Those who did so sought to gain acceptance for Jews through their being seen as integral parts of the progressive, liberal (occasionally conservative) and patriotic organizations and parties in their countries of residence.

Advocates of this solution to the modernity dilemma argued that such mobilization for “good causes” should be the primary expression of Jewish modernism. The specific causes selected varied from country to country. In Hungary it was Magyar patriotism. In Russia it was socialism and communism. In parts of Europe it was and is support for social democrats. In the United States it was and is political liberalism.

While there are many interesting case studies of the attempts to resolve the dilemma of modernity, I personally find that of Hungary to one of the most instructive. In the first half of the nineteenth century, Hungarian Jews essentially embraced all of the above methods to resolve the dilemma except secular Zionism, which came along two generations later.

Most Hungarian Jews embraced radical Magyar nationalism. Indeed, they participated in the Hungarian nationalist movement and in the army that attempted to fight a war of independence against Austria in numbers far exceeding their proportion of the population. They made enormous efforts to “Magyarize” themselves, and abandoned Yiddish and German for Hungarian. They even resented the immigration of non-Magyar Jews into Hungary and sometimes lobbied to prevent their admission.

Dinner At Le Marais Caps OK Labs? International Mashgichim Conference

27 Tevet 5762 – January 11, 2002

When a convention of kosher supervisors steps out to dine, you can be sure the restaurant of choice will meet their highest standards of kashrut as well as cuisine.

Le Marais, a French steakhouse that has been under the supervision of OK Laboratories since its opening in 1995, provided the setting for dinner and lively conversation following the OK?s 2nd Annual International Mashgichim Conference in November.

The restaurant is a haven of European charm just steps away from the frenzy of Times Square, serving food that has been described as ?very good classic French cuisine that happens to be glatt kosher.? Its convivial atmosphere also belies the notion that French restaurants (and their waiters) are snobbish and stuffy.

The choice of location was symbolic and timely, according to OK Laboratories rabbinic coordinator Rabbi Dovid Steigman. ?Coming into the heart of New York City at a time when so many are staying away after Sept. 11 is a show of solidarity and an expression of confidence in the city,? he said.

In fact the pedestrian traffic along Broadway was noticeably thin compared with its normal bustle. Le Marais had been forced to close its downtown restaurant next to the World Trade Center, but absorbed the former staff into the midtown location, where diners continue to enjoy steak with mountains of fries and specialties like meats smoked in-house.

A day of intensive kashrut seminars preceded the dinner. More than 100 kashrut supervisors came from Australia, Israel, Japan and Singapore as well as Europe and the Americas. Representing well over 1500 food manufacturing facilities around the world, they gathered in Brooklyn, where the OK?s organizational headquarters are located, to share information and take part in a day of lectures and discussions focusing on current issues in kashrut supervision and technology.

The conference was also an opportunity to enhance communication between the OK home office and representatives in the field. ?The fax number becomes a face,? was the way Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick, rabbinic administrator from Australia, expressed his appreciation of the chance to meet personally with the staff and other mashgichim.

?When a question arose about concentrated juice from Hungary, for example, the mashgiach from Hungary was right there to answer the questions,? said Rabbi Steigman.

Several panel discussions provided in-depth knowledge shared by rabbinic experts, and several lectures focused on specialized areas of concern. OK Rabbinic Coordinator Rabbi Yitzchak Gornish gave an in-depth analysis of bishul akum (food cooked by a non-Jew), and OK Israel representative Rabbi Ahron Haskel discussed the kosher complexities that arise during a shmitta year. A lively question-and-answer session and several anecdotal and humorous talks punctuated the day?s events.

Dinner at Le Marais elicited more ?shop talk? as the mashgichim spoke enthusiastically about the growth and sweep of kashrut in their respective countries. Australia is a major exporter of kosher food, Rabbi Gutnick told The Jewish Press, including dairy products and the Teal Lake wines marketed by Kedem, and has a very high standard of shechita.

Rabbi Shimon Lasker, headquartered in Brussels, extolled the quality of Belgian chocolate, and said that four new lines of completely parve industrial chocolate would soon be available from that country ? great news for bakers.

Rabbi Ahron Haskel, representing the OK organization in Israel, explained the central role Israel plays in the global marketing of kosher products. Not only do Israeli exports go to Jewish markets throughout Europe, he said, but European exporters also turn to the OK in Israel in order to send exports to the U.S. Pickles from Bulgaria, olives from Cyprus and Greece, and cheese from Lithuania all make their way to Israel and America under the auspices of the OK supervision.

Mentioning the growth of the OK Laboratories, rabbinic administrator Rabbi Don Yoel Levy pointed out that the database in their home office computer system now lists the kosher status of at least 160,000 separate ingredients for a network that certifies close to 180,000 products.

As the conference concluded on a note of success and shared good feeling, event coordinator Rabbi Yitzchak Hanoka summed up its purpose: ?In keeping ith OK tradition we are forever expanding our use of modern technology in order to strengthen the quality of our kashrut work and to expedite the exchange of information, thereby raisng the standard of kashrut worldwide.?

Akiba Eger ? Strictly Kosher, Strictly Quality

5 Tishri 5762 – September 22, 2001

Shredding the old perception that kosher wines are sweet and inferior to mainstream wines, A.V. Imports introduces Akiba Eger ? an exception brand of wine that is ideal for the ''Holiday of Freedom'' and other special occasions.

Kosher for Passover and perfect for family feasts, celebrations and parties, Akiba Eger is available in a Cabernet Franc or Welsch Riesling ? ideal for pairing with traditional and nouvelle cuisine. Akiba Eger listened to the market and developed wines that defy the status quo. These sophisticated wines produced in Egervin, the second largest winery in Hungary, are a far cry from the sweet wines in square bottles to which many may be accustomed.

The Akiba Eger Cabernet Franc, from the Kunsag region of Hungary, is a fresh and fruity wine with a medium body and measured tannins. Aged in oak, it is produced from 100 percent Cabernet Franc grapes, a close relative of Cabernet Sauvignon and shares many of the same characteristics. Produced from 100 percent Welsch Riesling grapes from the Eger region, the Akiba Eger Welsch Riesling has a medium golden hue with exotic aromas of flint and honeyed apples.

Egervin, which was founded in 1949, has greatly expanded its range of grape varieties that can be used in the production of kosher wines. As one of the most significant wine producers in Hungary, the company uses premium grapes and viticultural techniques, to ensure Akiba Eger wines meet high quality standards. Every step of the wine making process from grape crushing to bottling of the wines is handled solely by Sabbath observant Jews using equipment that is used exclusively for the preparation of kosher products.

Akiba Eger wines are ideal for vegetarians as kosher wines are subject to a very stringent filtration procedure, and no foreign substance may be used (unlike non-kosher wines, which often use gelatin, rice, milk products or animal products for clarification and purification processes).

A.V. Imports, Inc., a Columbia, Maryland-based national wine and spirit importer, has been in business since 1986. The company imports wines and spirits from Italy, Mexico, Chile, Hungary, Spain and New Zealand and distributes them throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, Aruba and Bahamas.

For more information, please visit www.avimports.com.

Akiba Eger's Welsh Riesling and New Cabernet Franc are Kosher for Passover.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/food/akiba-eger-strictly-kosher-strictly-quality/2001/09/22/

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