Photo Credit: Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

I write this with deep pain, for I know the most righteous Jews, including my own saintly grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, were killed sanctifying the Name of G-d. They were holy people whose kindness had no measure, whose goodness knew no bounds, and whose love of G-d and His people was deeper than the sea.

During the summer months I often lead groups on a heritage tour of Europe. On one such occasion, we visited Theresienstadt, the infamous concentration camp, and were shown a hidden synagogue that had been built by our doomed people. Inscribed on the walls were words from our morning prayers, words that pierced our hearts:

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“Look down from the Heavens and see – we have become an object of scorn and derision among nations…we are regarded as sheep being led to the slaughter…. But despite all this, we have not forgotten Your Name. We beg You not to forget us.”

G-d has not forgotten us and He will never forget us. That is His promise, engraved in His Torah for all eternity.

In February 2005 I received a call from the White House. Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem, had just completed a new wing and heads of state and other dignitaries were invited to participate in the dedication ceremony. President Bush was unable to attend and appointed a delegation of seven people to represent him. I was asked to be one of them. I was deeply honored. It was a very moving and inspirational experience.

On our return trip to Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, Fred Zeidman, chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Commission, approached me and asked, “Rebbetzin, do you know where you are?”

I looked at him, not quite understanding the meaning of his question.

“Just take a look,” he said, pointing to the map on the wall on which our route back to the U.S. was being charted.

I gazed at the map and saw that we were at that moment flying over Germany.

“Think about it, Rebbetzin,” Fred said. “You, a child of the Holocaust, a survivor of Bergen-Belsen, are flying over Germany in a plane of the government of the United States, and you are coming from Jerusalem!”

I choked up and had to swallow hard before I could speak. “Fred,” I said, “I think about it every day. When I was a little girl standing for roll call in Bergen-Belsen, with a shaven head, dressed in rags and covered with lice, I didn’t think I would survive, never mind fly over Germany in a plane belonging to the United States coming from Jerusalem.”

But that is our Jewish history. The same way I flew over Germany, we shall fly over all our enemies. G-d does not forget us – but we cannot and dare not forget Him. We cannot forget His Holy Torah. We cannot forget who we are. If we are to wipe out anti-Semitism once and for all, we have to understand that there is only one way and it is not by demonstrations or taking to the streets or shouting loudly or writing letters to government officials. All that will make little difference.

G-d gave us our ammunition. Torah, prayer, and loving kindness are our most powerful weapons. Let us remain steadfast in keeping our end of the covenant Hashem made with us, take hold of our weapons, and bring blessing to ourselves and the world.

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