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September 5, 2015 / 21 Elul, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘lodz’

When My Father Fought The Anti-Semites In Lodz: A Brief Tribute on his Yahrzeit – 28 Menachem Av

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

My father, Dr. Isaac Lewin, z”l, was elected to the Lodz City Council at the age of 30, shortly after he and my mother, a”h, settled in Poland’s second-largest city.

Lodz’s population was one-third Jewish, and my father’s reputation as an articulate spokesman for Jewish religious causes was already established by 1936. He was not only the elder son of the Reisher Rav, Aaron Lewin, z”l, hy”d, who was an extraordinary gaon and a brilliant orator in Polish twice elected to the Polish Sejm, but my father had written scholarly articles and opinion pieces for widely distributed Hebrew, Yiddish, and Polish publications while in his twenties.

The task of defending the rights of Lodz’s Jewish residents was not an easy one. One of two volumes of my father’s essays published by Mossad HaRav Kook in 1988 (“Demuyot Ve-Iruim Historiyim”) contains 15 pages describing speeches he made during the four years he served in the Lodz City Council, including translations of transcripts of sharp exchanges with rabid anti-Semites in that elected body.

Today’s anti-Semites want to throw Jews out of Israel into the sea; in the Thirties it was common for their predecessors to call on Jews to “go to Palestine!”

My father reports in his essay that on November 9, 1936, a card-carrying member of the openly anti-Semitic National Democratic Party broke into a Jewish-owned store on Kolinski Street and murdered Yisrael Isaac Zendel and Yaakov Yoseph Berkowitz. These murders followed the party’s public campaign of hatred against Lodz’s Jewish population.

Zendel left a widow and two infant sons. Berkowitz left a widow and seven young children. My father proposed that the city provide some financial assistance to the bereaved families. His resolution was scheduled for debate on January 28, 1937, and he was allotted five minutes to speak in its favor.

That morning another Lodz Jew, Shimon Klemner, was murdered by a National Democratic Party member. The council meeting was held in the evening. My father stood to speak and managed to utter only “honorable council” when he was shouted down by Casimierz and Bronislaw Kowalski, two brothers on the council who were members of the anti-Semitic party.

Casimierz shouted, “Take care! Hold your tongue.” Bronislaw joined in with a derisive half-Yiddish half-Polish warning that delivered the same message to the Jewish speaker.

My father noted that he had, by that date, attended four meetings of the council and could more easily speak openly of the murders that had taken place on the streets of Lodz. He was, he said, effectively inviting the angel of death into the council meeting. At this point, the transcript reflects disturbances on the floor and the mayor calling for “Silence, silence.”

My father continued, “Maybe the tears of orphans and widows will influence you to finally do what is best for the country and the city. For several months terrible crimes have been committed on the streets of Lodz. The anti-Semitic campaign has borne fruit. And this morning another victim has been added, a young Jew, 27 years old, who harmed no one, was stabbed and killed on Sterling Street.”

At this point the transcript reflects that one of the Kowalskis interrupted, “So what? Only one? Bravo, bravo. And how many Poles have you killed?”

My father responded: “This is an urgent matter. It deserves your silent attention.”

Another of the Jew-haters on the council, Mr. Czernick, then interjected, “In 18 years only one? Only one dog-soul? I am ready to kill hundreds of you in one hour.”

The mayor, ringing a bell, called again for silence.

My father continued with a protest against the vile murders and called for cooperation in the city of Lodz, which owed so much to the ingenuity and efforts of its Jewish residents.

Am I Supposed to Read that?

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

I love that most of my kids don’t actually read this blog – it gives me a freedom I wouldn’t have, if I thought they were actually listening. I have to deal with the fact that Amira does, Lauren mostly, but the boys…not at all.

I shared a post on Facebook as Aliza was sitting next to me. “Am I supposed to read that?” she asked.

No, I told her, you don’t have to. “Oh, good,” was her response.

She’s in the kitchen making herself something to eat now. She’s singing quietly to herself. There is something infinitely comforting to have your child singing that way.

I can’t make out the words – it doesn’t really matter. She’s making herself her favorite noodles – with cheese.

In the meantime, it’s a good quiet, mostly anyway. David called from Poland a few minutes ago. He’s on a bus heading towards Lodz and in a few hours, he will be going to Treblinka.

Treblinka was one of the hardest places to visit simply because almost nothing is there. It is up to you to imagine what once was. There are 17,000 stones, representing the Jewish communities of Poland before the war. Compared to Israel, Poland is huge and so to travel from place to place, geographical realities force you to make a huge circle.

You fly into and out of Warsaw – from there, you draw a circle. Some trips start from Treblinka and end with Maidanek; others, like mine and now Davidi’s, start with Maidanek and end with Treblinka. I think that is smarter. It’s all there, in Maidanek – the gas chambers, the crematoria, the ashes, the collections of possessions.

If you see Maidanek, you can imagine Treblinka. A trip to Poland forever changes you. There is nothing like the reality of being in a gas chamber…knowing you stand where thousands died. Israeli groups visit the concentration camps in large groups and carrying Israeli flags. We need to make this statement. Our people were here once; we have returned, but we come with the power and the reality that we, Israel, will never allow you, whoever you are, to do again what you once did.

And so, with our Israeli flags, dressed as we are, we are stared at in these places. More, there is a recognition among other visitors. When we entered the gas chambers, other groups quickly left. While we were inside, other groups entered and either walked quickly passed us or went back outside to wait until we were finished.

Perhaps it was wrong of us, but we didn’t wait. We went in and claimed our place – this is where OUR grandparents and great grandparents died. You come as visitors, we come as mourners. I can’t really explain it.

Davidi sounded good on the phone – he is looking forward to coming home. I will see him again in about 36 hours. They will land at the airport before dawn on Monday morning and will go straight to the Western Wall. They will come back as stronger Jews, stronger Israelis.

It is a trip that changes your life, focuses you more on why it is so very important that there be an Israel.

I asked Davidi if he was writing down what he was experiencing. He said he didn’t know how. I thought of that when Aliza asked if she was supposed to read my articles.

Part of being a parent is accepting that your way may not be theirs. So, no, she doesn’t have to read and he doesn’t have to write. It is enough that she sings in the kitchen; that he shares this experience with his friends and teachers.

Sacrifices of Peace

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

In one of the most famous events in the Bible, G-d commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only son. So Abraham took his son Isaac, bound him on an altar and prepared to bring him up as a burnt offering. And then the voice of the angel called to him and told him not to harm his son.

G-d did not want human sacrifices. The peace process does. After the handshake with Arafat in the Rose Garden led to a wave of terrorist attacks, Prime Minister Rabin invented a new sacrifice to describe the dead Israelis murdered by the Muslim terrorists who had been permitted to enter Israel, to form armies, to train openly and to kill openly. Korbanot Shalom. Sacrifices of peace.

In Ancient Israel, in the Tabernacle and the Temple, the Korban Shelamim, the Peace Offering, was brought as a celebratory offering to be eaten by all. In the modern State of Israel, the Korbanot Shalom were brought by the families of the dead who often had little more than a few scraps of skin tissue, a finger or a hand caught in a crack in the sidewalk to remember their children by.

In the old Israel, only the pagan worshipers of Moloch, the abominable cult that placed its own sons and daughters into the idol’s flames, practiced human sacrifice. In the new Israel that was ushered in on that glorious day in the Rose Garden under the beaming gaze of Bill Clinton, everyone in the land was expected to be prepared to offer up their children to the Moloch of peace, the idol of the Palestinian Authority, its altar engraved with Nobel Peace Prizes, its service overseen by the international diplomats and domestic pacifists who had appointed themselves its Priests of Peace.

Peace made the service of death into a national duty. There was no telling where or when one might be called upon by Israel’s peace partners in Ramallah to become a sacrifice for peace. It might be at a mall or at a pizzeria or while riding the bus. An Israeli could become a sacrifice for peace at any time. And the Labor Party leaders would bow their heads solemnly over his grave, like the biblical elders were obligated to do over every murder victim in their vicinity. But unlike the elders, they could not recite the ceremonial verse, “Our hands did not shed this blood.”

Eventually Prime Minister Rabin, who had offered up so many Israelis as sacrifices of peace, was privileged to himself became a sacrifice of peace. His ascension is commemorated annually and has long since made its way into the Israeli curriculum as an example of the dedication to peacemaking that is expected of the true visionary of peace.

The sacrifices of peace have diminished as the left has fallen out of power. The wooden altars of the Moloch of Peace stand empty and the Priests of Peace pass mournfully through international airports, studying maps, drawing up plans and calling for new sacrifices. And eventually their call is heeded.

In the spring, America’s prince of peace, the man who had thrown thousands of American soldiers with their hands tied behind their backs into the arms of the Taliban, who had sacrificed every other American ally in the region, came to Jerusalem to demand that the altars once again be raised up and the blood of peace flow over the negotiating tables.

“It can be tempting to put aside the frustrations and sacrifices that come with the pursuit of peace,” Obama told a carefully selected audience of Israeli students. Some of them future sacrifices on his bloody altar of peace. “Here on Earth we must bear our responsibilities in an imperfect world. That means accepting our measure of sacrifice and struggle.”

And so the measure of sacrifice comes again. The ceremonial release of terrorists with blood on their hands commenced this festival of negotiations. Some of the freed terrorists had been notoriously talented sacrificers; claiming the lives of women and children. And in reward for their service, the Moloch of Peace smiled upon them and commanded that they be set free.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/sultan-knish/sacrifices-of-peace/2013/08/26/

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