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December 10, 2016 / 10 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin’

Irena Sendler

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

      When people hear of those honored as Righteous Among The Nations by Yad Vashem, they automatically think of the most renowned, such as Oscar Schindler or Raul Wallenberg. When asked to name the most anti-Semitic country they usually say Poland and can’t name anyone from Poland honored by Yad Vashem. In fact, of the thousands of diplomats that served in German-occupied countries, there are only 29 that were considered righteous by Yad Vashem.


      The Poles on the other hand were under the threat of death if they were caught by the Germans helping Jews and yet there are more Poles listed as Righteous then all other countries combined. One of the reasons for this lapse of memory is because the Germans put most of the concentration camps in Poland. Another reason is that after the Shoah, Poland was under communist rule and there were pogroms in 1946 and expulsions in 1968.


      During my recent visit to Poland, I had the opportunity to meet one of the truly great people honored by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations, Irena Sendler.


      The story of Irena Sendler is not well known as she shies away from publicity, but recently as she grows more and more frail, people are making their way to her home to pay homage for the tremendous bravery she showed during the worst times during the Shoah.


      At the time of the German invasion, Irena was a senior administrator in the Warsaw Social Welfare Department, which operated the canteens in every district of the city. Previously, the canteens provided meals, financial aid, and other services for orphans, the elderly, and the destitute. Now, through Irena, the canteens also provided clothing, medicine and money for the Jews. They were registered under fictitious Christian names, and to prevent inspections, the Jewish families were reported as being afflicted with highly infectious diseases like typhus and tuberculosis.



Shmuel Ben Eliezer presenting Irena Sendler with a plaque from Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin in gratitude for saving 2,500 Jewish children during the Holocaust.



      When in 1942, the Nazis herded hundreds-of-thousands of Jews into a 16-block area that came to be known as the Warsaw Ghetto. Irena Sendler was so appalled by the conditions that she joined Zegota, the Council for Aid to Jews, organized by the Polish underground resistance movement, as one of its first recruits and directed the efforts to rescue Jewish children.


      To be able to enter the Ghetto legally, Irena managed to be issued a pass from Warsaw’s Epidemic Control Department and she visited the Ghetto daily. She reestablished contacts and brought food, medicines and clothing. But 5,000 people a month were dying from starvation and disease in the Ghetto, and she decided to help the Jewish children get out.


      Irena Sendler began smuggling children out in an ambulance. She recruited at least one person from each of the ten centers of the Social Welfare Department. With their help, she issued hundreds of false documents with forged signatures. Irena Sendler successfully smuggled almost 2,500 Jewish children to safety and gave them temporary new identities.


      Some children were taken out in gunnysacks or body bags. Some were buried inside loads of goods. A mechanic took a baby out in his toolbox. Some kids were carried out in potato sacks and others were placed in coffins. The children were then given false identities and placed in homes, orphanages and convents.


      Irena Sendler carefully noted, in coded form, the children’s original names and their new identities. She kept the only record of their true identities in jars buried beneath an apple tree in a neighbor’s back yard, across the street from German barracks, hoping she would someday dig up the jars, locate the children and inform them of their past.


      In all, the jars contained the names of 2,500 children…


      After the war she dug up the jars and used the notes to track down the 2,500 children she had placed with adoptive families and to reunite them with relatives scattered across Europe. But most lost their families during the Holocaust. The children had known her only by her code name “Jolanta.” But years later, after she was honored for her wartime work, her picture appeared in a newspaper. “A man, a painter, telephoned me,” said Sendler. ‘I remember your face,’ he said. `It was you who took me out of the ghetto.’ I had many calls like that!”


      During my visit with Irena, I presented her with a plaque from the Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin, whose rededication I had just attended. I told her that it was her love of children that gave her the strength and courage to save the children, and it was love of children that gave the famous Rabbi Shapiro the foresight to build the yeshiva. I told her that had not the Holocaust occurred many of the children she rescued possibly would have attended the Yeshiva.


      She smiled and her eyes glittered, recalling the children and thinking of them in Lublin, a place that hopefully will once again be a place of Torah learning for Jews of all ages.

Shmuel Ben Eliezer

Rededication Of Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin in Poland (Part II)

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

The Old Yeshiva


      Last week’s column, mostly pictures, on the rededication of Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin, could only partially describe the joyous event. The historic yeshiva building is once again in the hands of the Jewish community, and the sounds of Torah are heard in its halls.


      To fully understand the significance of the building and the institution it once housed, we have to go back close to eighty years, when the venerable Rabbi Meir Shapiro decided to build a yeshiva that would set an example for all other houses of higher Torah learning.


      Rabbi Shapiro dreamt of a yeshiva that would cater to the most talented Torah scholars. At the first Agudah Convention, he proposed to build the yeshiva. This was the very same convention, at which he broached the inception of the now-famous Daf Yomi.


      To do this he set about creating an atmosphere in which the students would be able to have all their needs, spiritual and physical, taken care of. They had the best teachers to challenge them intellectually and for the first time a campus able to house and feed them adequately.


      During the laying of the corner stone, 20,000 people came from all over to celebrate the inauguration of the yeshiva. These included dozens of renowned rabbis, representatives of the local and federal governments and numerous journalists and donors.


Unveiling the Facade Of The Restored Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin



      The building, most modern of its time in Lublin, was built by funds that Rabbi Shapiro gathered on trips abroad. He traveled all over Europe as well as the U.S. where he spent 15 months visiting over 200 locales. Even with all the money he collected, the building fund had a substantial deficit and Rabbi Shapiro had to take out a major loan to cover the gap. This debt curtailed many planned projects.


      Rabbi Shapiro insisted that if they were going to teach the top students, they had to provide them with the best. During his trips to collect money, he also collected books and manuscripts that would eventually fill the library off the main study hall. There was also a separate room that held a model of the Beit HaMikdash so the students studying the laws of the Temple could visualize what they were learning.


      The yeshiva opened on June 23 1930, to much fanfare. The mezuzah on the front door was affixed, in the presence of thousands, by Rabbi Yisrael Friedman, the Chortkover Rebbe. A large banner was unfurled, depicting a Torah Scroll being held up by the hands of Yissaschar, while the hands of Zevulun placed a crown of glory on top, against a background of the Polish national flag.


      While many invitations went out from the office of the yeshiva to officials and dignitaries, Rabbi Shapiro felt he owed a debt of gratitude to the former great leaders of the Jewish community in Lublin.


      In an article in Der Jud of June 24 1924, which covered the laying of the cornerstone ceremony, Shmuel Rothstein wrote, “No pen is able to describe what we felt at that particular moment.


      “The enthusiasm was genuine, for everybody sensed that something of historic significance, an epoch-making event, was taking place. No wonder, then, that all those gathered were deeply moved when the initiator of the future academy, Rabbi Meir Shapiro, started his address:


      ‘”Today we pay tribute to Polish Jewry, to their former splendor and glory. While my friends were inviting representatives of the government and various organizations to our ceremony, I went to the old cemetery to invite the immortal Talmudic Sages of old Lublin. Their mortal remains rest in the old cemetery, but their radiant spirit is alive with us'”


      Rabbi Shapiro passed away in 1933, just three years after the opening of the yeshiva. As he lay dying he asked to be taken into the study hall to be surrounded by his beloved students. When they started to cry, he insisted that they sing and dance for he was going to his reward. Over 30,000 people attended his funeral accompanying his body to the new cemetery. He was later re-interred in Israel.


      The Yeshiva continued under the leadership of Rabbi Shlomo Eiger until the German invasion of Lublin in 1939. The Germans occupied the building, burnt the majority of the library and murdered most of the students and faculty. After the war the building was turned into a medical college.


(Next week: The Restoration And Plans For The Yeshiva Building)

Shmuel Ben Eliezer

Rededication Of Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin In Poland (Part I)

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

         It has been said that Poland is a country of ghosts and for the past 68 years, since the invasion of Poland by the Germans in 1939, there has been little to celebrate.


         Most of the time when a large group of Jews came together it was to remember the tragedy of the  Shoah.


         This week more then a thousand people came to celebrate the rededication of the famous Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin, established by the great visionary Rabbi Meir Shapiro in 1930. The yeshiva became known worldwide as the “Oxford of the Yeshiva World” for the quality of both its students and teachers. Tragically, it existed only nine years before the Germans invaded, closed the yeshiva, and murdered most of its students.


The three rabbis of Poland preparing for the celebration of the Siyum of Daf Yomi




Yonatan and Daniela Finkelstein at Havdalah in the restored Beis Midrash



Davening Shacharis in the newly renovated Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin



        For years the building served as a medical college, but the name Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin remained in the hearts of Jews worldwide. Other schools used the name, keeping its ideals of scholastic excellence alive. But the physical building remained in the hands of strangers. Three years ago the building was returned to the Jewish community, but it had become rundown and in need of major renovation.


The town crier is one of the many Polish officials who attended the event



Monica Krawczyk, director of the Foundation for the Preservation on Jewish Heritage in Poland, presents a menorah to the renovated Yeshiva building



Rabbi Meir Shapiro, founder of Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin in 1930



         The Jewish community of Warsaw, which includes Lublin, decided to take on the project single-handedly. Using monies received as restitution from other properties, they renovated one wing of the building including the fabled beis midrash. The celebration took place over the weekend of Parshas Yitro.


         In the coming weeks I will be writing about the events surrounding the celebrations in my regular column, Polin.


Partial view of the more then 1500 people who came to Lublin to celebrate the opening of the Yeshiva



A copy of the original yeshiva banner hanging from the famous balcony




Rabbi Yechiel Kauffman Of Cong. Anshei Sephard of Boro Park, with Mr. Janek Novak, who oversaw the restoration work at The Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin





The original paroches (ark covering) from before the Shoah, in use again

Shmuel Ben Eliezer

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/rededication-of-yeshiva-chachmei-lublin-in-poland-part-i/2007/02/14/

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