"In no way can we excuse this couple from not knowing 'what a monster Hitler would become' "
His Chesed Lives On [The Biggest Heart of All / Issue 857]
We have known the Morels for more than 40 years, back from our Toronto days. We moved to Israel 22 years ago and were happy to hear that Avrohom and Joyce had joined us in Har Nof.
When Joyce left on one of her trips to New York with Alter, I decided to call Avrohom each week to lift his spirits. We would share divrei Torah (his passion), Toronto hockey (his love), updates on Alter Mordechai (his life), and general issues.
I mentioned to Avrohom that a number of years ago I had undergone two knee transplants and I found in New York a comfortable pair of adjustable slippers. They were now on their last leg, and due to Covid I had no way of getting a new pair shipped directly to Har Nof.
Avrohom called Alter Mordechai who, through his job in a shipping business, was able to arrange for a new pair of slippers to be delivered within three weeks. When I asked Alter Mordechai how much it would cost, he told me, “Twenty-five dollars.” I told him I knew it had to have cost more, but he wouldn’t hear of it.
I wear those new comfortable slippers each Shabbos and Yom Tov; they are Alter Mordechai’s chesed slippers.
I will never forget him and his chesed. Yehi zichro baruch.
Rabbi Menachem Gopin, Har Nof
Larger than Life [The Biggest Heart of All / Issue 857]
Thank you for your beautiful article on Alter Morel. You were able to capture just some of what made him so special. I know many people around the world were inspired by him. Although Alter was small, he was larger than life and evinced true simchas hachayim, knowing how precious life was and making the most of every minute.
Alter never had a bad word to say about anyone or anything. He was a true warrior. He never, ever complained about what hurdles he was facing or the numerous battles he had to fight. Instead, he accepted it all and believed that it was all for the best. Alter was so grateful for the everyday things most people take for granted, like being able to go to work and going to shul. He truly loved it all.
Alter is no longer with us, and the world is not the same. I remember when he was sick, he waited patiently for the day to come when he’d be able to get back to shul. Unfortunately, Hashem decided it was time for him to move to the Next World — but instead, through a sefer Torah that’s being created in his memory, he’ll be back in shul again. We are currently raising money to write a sefer Torah in his memory that will go to the shul in Lawrence where Alter and his wife were members. Readers who’d like to contribute can visit the Charidy page: www.charidy.com/cmp/AlterMorel.
Amazing Endeavor [Metro & Beyond / Issue 857]
I loved the article about the community vaccine alliance in Chicago. Baruch Hashem, it’s an amazing thing, and members of my family have been recipients of the vaccine thanks to this endeavor.
I wanted to point out that one of the Hatzolah volunteers had his name misprinted. Kenny Landsman is one of the first EMT and paramedic members of Chicago Hatzolah and one of the people behind this amazing program.
Neil Harris, Chicago, IL
No Excuses [Inbox / Issue 857]
As a fellow historian, I always enjoy reading Pearl Herzog’s admirable and enlightening additions to your magazine. However, I was very disappointed to read her letter defending Prince Philip’s sisters and brothers-in-law.
Mrs. Herzog defends Prince Gottfried because he was part of a group of officers who attempted to assassinate Hitler in 1944. Most historians believe that the attempt to assassinate Hitler had more to do with the despair felt by these officers, most of whom were members of aristocratic families, upon seeing the tide of war turning against Germany and believing they could save their country by killing Hitler.
Mrs. Herzog states that in 1937, the year during which Cecilie and her husband Georg Donatus joined the Nazi party, they “would have no idea what a monster Hitler would become and should not be judged.” I beg to differ.
Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany in 1933. One of his first acts was to ban shechitah. In that same year he already established a concentration camp, Dachau, where he interned his political enemies and later would imprison the Jews. Well before 1937, the Nazis burned books written by Jewish authors, and banned Jews from holding jobs as civil servants and owning land. Quotas were put in place so that Jewish students could not attend universities. Jewish students were subjected to shaming by their teachers and fellow students as racial laws were promulgated throughout Germany by the Nazis. Jewish lawyers were prohibited from practicing law, Jewish doctors were prohibited from treating Aryans, and Jews were dispossessed of their businesses.
By 1935, with the enactment of the draconian Nuremberg laws, Jews lost their citizenship and in effect became stateless. Throughout all these years Hitler held broadcast many rallies where he proclaimed his hatred of the Jews and his intention to rid Germany of this despised race.
In no way can we excuse this couple from not knowing “what a monster Hitler would become” — because it was apparent that he was already one well before 1937.
Though the royal family’s origins are indeed German, I do not believe that today they are in any way anti-Semitic. Nor was Prince Philip, who served in the RAF during the war. However, we must be careful not to rewrite history and cast as blameless those whose allegiances and sympathies were certainly suspicious, if not overtly obvious.
Home at Last [Every Torah Has Its Time / Issue 857]
“Accurate and compelling!” was Jonathan Pollard’s message to me about Binyamin Rose’s article, and it was precisely that.
Rabbi Chaim Suissa, the veteran personal assistant to Rav Mordechai Eliyahu ztz”l and current CEO of his institutions, together with his wife and me, had the tremendous zechus to be part of this momentous and emotional anticipated event, as we have a special and intimate relationship with the Pollards for more than two decades. The palpable and enthusiastic simchah expressed by all the participants was marred only by the distressing fact that the sefer Torah cannot yet remain at Kever Yosef.
Rav Mordechai Eliyahu was a father figure, rav, and great supporter to Jonathan, speaking with anyone and everyone in the position to help him, even traveling to the States for 48 hours just to support Jonathan by being present at his hearing, knowing in advance that any contact between them was prohibited.
Rabbi Suissa, who was honored with writing a letter in the sefer Torah, visited Jonathan in prison frequently together with Rav Eliyahu. As the secretary to Rav Eliyahu, I had the opportunity to visit him there as well.
The reference in the article to the chanukiyah instantly brought up the vivid memory of the visit in the prison mere weeks before Chanukah many years ago. My concerns of meeting a dejected, angry, and resentful person immediately vanished as he approached with his warm, welcoming smile, saying: “Naomi, my sister, how wonderful to finally meet you in person,” and then asked Esther to give me a hug for him! I was stunned by his unbelievably sweet and unassuming personality, his warmth and positivity, and his humor and politeness.
One of the rabbanim asked Jonathan how he would be able to light the Chanukah candles.
The perplexed look on his face was priceless, and the immediate response of this prisoner serving a life sentence was: “Why would I worry now about lighting the candles if Hashem can release me today?!”
His complete sincerity was awesome, his and Esther’s emunah genuine and steadfast, their constant motto: “Any initiative of ours is only hishtadlus; the outcome is up to Hashem.”
Jonathan always told Rav Eliyahu that when he arrives in Eretz Yisrael, he would immediately come to the Rav and they would go together to the Kotel. The last time that he mentioned it, Rav Eliyahu said, “No, you’ll go to the Kotel and then come to me.”
Esther told me they were very puzzled by this statement. Why wouldn’t the Rav want to go with them? Shortly thereafter, Rav Eliyahu fell ill and his words unfortunately became clear.
Upon Jonathan’s release to Israel this year, we merited to accompany them on a discreet and extremely emotional visit to the Kotel as soon as was possible for them after their arrival, and from there went to the kever of Rav Eliyahu to daven Nishmas Kol Chai.
Jonathan’s personal message from prison to my children was that they must express gratitude every day that they have the zechus to learn Torah, plus the added zechus of learning Torah in Eretz Yisrael.
Baruch Hashem, now Jonathan has that zechus as well, and we are overjoyed that he will finally participate in the upcoming hilula of his beloved Rav Eliyahu.
Jonathan and Esther are finally home, yet struggling with Esther’s health issues. Esther continues to be a fountain of strength with deep emunah. Rav Eliyahu used to describe her as “Jonathan’s spokesperson to the world” for the way she dedicated her life to Jonathan, working indefatigably and courageously for his freedom and well-being.
Please keep davening for Esther Yocheved bat Raizel Bracha. May she together with her dear Yehonatan ben Malka merit many long years of happiness and health. Amen.
Naomi Knobel, Jerusalem
Act Like Guests [Airlines Unmasked / Issue 856]
Regarding the article about airline incidents, I want to state an opinion about frum people not wearing masks in public, which I think many honest people will admit has caused the tension in the first place.
If you’re in your own house, you can make your own rules. If I think my shoes are clean, I can put them up on my couch when I relax. But if I go into your house, I can’t put my shoes on your couch and say, “I think they’re clean.” It doesn’t matter what you think if you’re a guest.
The same holds true for Jews in America. It’s not our country. We don’t belong here. We’re in galus, and we’re guests. So we might be very smart, and believe in antibodies or masks being ineffective. We might think that we trust in Hashem and believe that we will only get sick if we’re meant to. We might think it’s OCD to wear masks outside when there’s little evidence that anybody has ever gotten sick with such little contact.
But it’s all irrelevant. We don’t own this country and shouldn’t behave that way.
When I’m in non-Jewish areas, it looks to me like most of the people are wearing masks. I think it’s a chillul Hashem if we flaunt the rules or even the accepted societal norms. It breeds animosity towards Jews and Torah. And we’re acting as if we’re not in galus.
Dovid M., Queens, NY
Keeping the Pot Boiling [Outlook / Issue 856]
When Yonoson Rosenblum uses Israel as an example of a good voting system, he was referring to in-person voting. But he failed to note that unlike many of the United States, Israel allows prisoners, felons, and people on parole to vote. The voting system in Israel is conducted by national rather than local authorities. By the way, in the most recent Israeli election, more than a half-million voters cast their ballots by mail.
Concerning alternatives to in-person voting, Rosenblum sees possibilities for voting fraud, but so far evidence of this has been extremely sparse. Most of us file our taxes online or by mail over an extended period. We do not wait in line at an IRS office on a single day, which happens to be a workday. Likewise with renewing our drivers licenses, applying for benefits, and other governmental interactions.
What Rosenblum calls “vote harvesting” can also be called absentee voting. When my grandparents were alive, I collected mail-in ballots from their neighbors at the senior home so that they would not have to stand in line on Election Day. Was I doing something illegal in helping our seniors vote from home?
Concerning Jim Crow, anyone with a cursory knowledge of American history knows how easy it is for states to “choose their voters” by limiting the number of poll sites, reducing the voting hours, drawing district lines in a particular manner, and other methods that are not explicitly racist but are designed to limit black participation and representation.
If Rosenblum wishes to maintain the Republican lead, he can do it the honest way by convincing new citizens, minorities, and young voters on the merits of his party.
Vital Encouragement [Five-Star Standard / Issue 855]
Thank you for your profile of Rav Moshe Heinemann. I only had the zechus of meeting Rav Heinemann twice, years ago when we were rebuilding the mikveh in North Miami Beach. I was part of a committee that was tasked with arranging the plans, fundraising, and getting the mikveh constructed under the guidance of our rabbinic committee headed by our rav, Rav Yerucham Bensinger ztz”l.
Rav Bensinger had consulted with many experts, including Rav Pinchus Weberman, but wanted Rav Heinemann’s expertise and haskamah as well, as there were some complicated issues.
The day the contractors poured the foundation for the mikveh and the boros was a big day for us. All the rabbis in the community were there, as well as board members and others who were involved in the process. All were watching closely. Rav Heinemann, who flew down to Florida for the occasion, asked for a ladder and climbed down into the pit that was dug so he could observe more closely. He climbed back up and said he was very happy with the way it was being done.
Over the course of the construction, we had several delays and problems, including hurricanes, difficulties with the county too numerous to count, and issues with funding, halachic problems, complaints from neighbors, and just general unhappiness with the consequent slow pace of construction. I was so frustrated at the difficulties we were having.
Then Rav Heinemann flew down again to help with some halachic guidance that was needed. I was invited to a meeting with him and Rav Bensinger, where I detailed some of the woes we were having. He looked me straight in the eye and told me it was the satan that was causing these problems. I was a bit taken aback and asked him to explain.
He told me that he had heard from his rebbi, who heard from the Chofetz Chaim himself that he was having a very difficult time getting Mishnah Berurah printed. There were many delays that could not be explained, and then a fire in the place that was supposed to get it printed. The Chofetz Chaim felt confident that it was something very important that he was doing, if the satan was working so hard to impede its progress.
So too, Rav Heinemann said, building this mikveh (Mikveh Jovita Cojab) in North Miami Beach was very important, and we should not let any of the impediments keep us from finishing this important task.
I was so grateful to have seen this gadol in action and will never forget his encouragement.
Marcy Bernstein, North Miami Beach
The Cook from Hungary [Out from the Cold / Issue 855]
I read the article about Rav Shammai Zahn ztz”l with great interest.
My mother-in-law was Mrs. Kraus, the cook who was mentioned in the article. Reb Shammai traveled to Vienna in 1956, at outset of the Hungarian Revolution, in search of a good cook for his yeshivah. There he met my father-in-law, Reb Avrohom Moshe Kraus, one many Jewish refugees who had fled the Hungarian Communist regime. They spoke and agreed that his wife would make a good cook for the Sunderland yeshivah.
So that’s how Mr. and Mrs. Kraus, along with their two teenaged sons Yom Tov and Mattisyahu, came to the chilly northern English town of Sunderland. The two bochurim joined Rav Yehudah Zev Segal’s yeshivah in Manchester. Unfortunately, within a year their father was niftar. Mrs. Kraus stayed alone in cold Sunderland, a pious Jewish woman who spoke only Yiddish and Hungarian.
Mrs. Kraus and Reb Shammai joined forces to provide the bochurim with all their spiritual and physical needs — Reb Shammai with Torah, and Mrs. Kraus with food and motherly care. The Kraus family will fondly remember the respect, grace, and kavod Reb Shammai bestowed on our mother-in-law for the rest of her life.
(In a true full circle, Mrs. Kraus’s einekel eventually married the einekel of the shochet from Malmö who helped Reb Shammai collect funds for his yeshivah, as mentioned in the article. Yehi zichro baruch.)
Miriam Kraus, London, UK
The Right Volume, Too [Expanded Sound / Issue 854]
Thank you for your article on the Berko brothers. I too am a great fan of Avrumi and Shea Berko, whose musical talents greatly enhanced several of our family simchahs.
The excessive volume of the music played at our simchahs has long been a major concern of mine. I shared this with the Berko brothers prior to each of the weddings. I’m delighted to say that they heeded my words. The choice of songs as well as the volume of the music performed was in accordance with our wishes. The simchahs were super leibedig, the music radiating warmth and deep emotion.
Yasher koach and todah rabah!
The Submission That Wasn’t [My Covid Hero / Issue 854]
When I saw the ad for the “My Covid Hero” project, I loved the idea. I just knew whom I’d write about. I took out a notebook and with tears in my eyes, filled up pages writing about the pain, about everything closing down — and then about Ms. Chevi Garfinkel opening a free Zoom class.
She guided all of us who joined through the painful period. Her classes reached hearts all over the world. Together we cried and sang, which helped me deal with my pain in such a healthy way.
For days I tried completing my submission for the project — and then I realized that there was no way I could find the words to adequately describe the impact my hero had on me and so many others.
There for My Father [My Covid Hero / Issue 854]
In response to your “Covid Hero” project, I would like to share the story of our own family’s hero.
My father a”h was an elderly man who had just turned 92 last year February. He had been basically healthy, but was now suffering from dementia. Since my mother’s passing a few years ago, he wasn’t his usual upbeat self, and had stopped responding to us, which made it hard to communicate.
When COVID-19 hit, we made sure not to expose him to any germs. Other than the aide who lived with him, there were no visitors. I went in every day to put tefillin on him and daven with him, with gloves and a mask, of course. Afterward I stood at the door and spoke to him for a few minutes. And of course, we all called to check how he was doing.
On Friday morning, Erev Shabbos Hagadol, the aide reported that my father was running a low-grade fever. I ran over and saw that he was weak and not himself. I called my older sister over and while we were there, we noticed that he was having difficulty breathing. We called Hatzolah, who felt that he must see a doctor.
The doctor, who saw his breathing grow even more labored, said that he had to be admitted to the hospital at once. I was very upset and scared, knowing that we wouldn’t be able to go along with him and that communication with the hospitals was minimal at best. But we didn’t seem to have a choice.
All my fears were realized, and then some. We experienced untold pain and frustration, not hearing from the hospital even after calling countless times, then hearing that he’d been put on a ventilator, and then hearing from doctors and staff that “you must understand that at his age he really lived his life and the most compassionate thing to do is just to let him go.”
Then, after a few unsuccessful tries at weaning him from the ventilator, we got the good news that he was successfully completely weaned off the ventilator. We grew cautiously optimistic and began to discuss the logistics of bringing him home with a feeding tube.
Then, right after Pesach, I got a call: His numbers were starting to drop.
“Does that mean it’s almost over?” I asked.
When they confirmed, I requested permission to run over there and be with him — which the regulations should have allowed — but they wouldn’t give me permission.
I started to shake. My father was leaving This World, completely alone. What could we do? I called my sister to try to figure out how to proceed — and then five minutes later was informed that he had just been niftar.
We called the family and chevra kaddisha and started making arrangements for the levayah.
An hour later the phone rang. A woman was on the phone. Her name was Leah, she said, and she wanted to give me some comfort in the time of my pain. She explained that she worked as a nurse on the floor where my father had been hospitalized. She wasn’t his nurse, but when she heard the doctor talking to me, she realized what was going on. So she went over to my father’s bed and said Vidui, Krias Shema, and Tehillim for him, and remained there davening for him at the time of yetzias neshamah.
I was speechless at the extent of her tzidkus.
We all know of so many people who were niftar from Covid with no one there with them. Yet here our family had the zechus to be helped by a Yiddishe woman who doesn’t know us and whom we don’t know. It was a tremendous comfort for us in the time of our pain.
We, the family of Reb Avraham Gedalia ben Yoshe Dov, whose yarhtzeit is 25 Nissan 5780, bless Leah that Hashem should grant her with a life of only brachah and that she should never know of any pain whatsoever, just as she gave us comfort in the time of our pain.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 858)
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