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Rabbi's Blog: Yom HaShoah + Film Link

04/18/2023 03:40:02 PM



Dear OZ family,


I’d like to thank all of the members of our community who attended last night’s Yom HaShoah program. Mark Englander told the story of the Pentcho, a ship that saved over 500 souls from certain death in the Holocaust. I told a story in my introductory words of Dr. Gila Leiter’s parents, who braved two Ukrainian winters in hiding surrounded by murderous people hunting them down. I attached that story below. Also attached below is the link to the full unedited version on the Pentcho film.


If we refer to those who were murdered as the Kedoshim, then these people are Kodesh Kedoshim. How my father, after losing every member of his family as a teenager, seeing his father shot before his very eyes, spending 2 years being hunted like an animal, and living like a wild animal, could survive all of that and raise a family with full Yiras Shamayim is nothing short of amazing.


May we quickly go from Yom Hashoah to recognize the great privilege of seeing the return to Zion, and celebrating that one week later, on Yom Ha’atzmaut.


With blessings of health and safety,


Rabbi Allen Schwartz

Pentcho Film Link:

Every Pesach after all the preparations were complete, the table set, Marror grated, hand baked Matzot carefully stacked, and the numerous haggadot readied, my mother, z"l would break down, usually just as the seder got rolling, and turn to us saying, we had it so much worse than the Jews in Egypt during the shoah, why are we discussing Egypt and not the bitter tears we shed during our lifetime. 


My father would try to calm her down, and would tell us how during the long freezing winters hiding in the Ukrainian forests alongside the partisans with their small group, he would track the coming of early spring, and figure out by the moon when it was Rosh Chodesh and when it must finally be Pesach. The small ragged group gathered together, cold and starving, and out of the mud fashioned matza shapes and recited the haggadah, everyone present contributing what they remembered. He never forgot those Seder nights. He would follow that story with the heroic action of his teenage cousin Ruchel who was with them,  who was captured by the Nazis searching for them in the forest bunkers , and instructed to call out the names of her compatriots,- but she called out other Jewish names so they knew not to respond...and she was shot on the spot.


 He never wavered in his faith and it was of utmost importance for my parents to have their traditions and identity and memories  preserved ,despite the unspeakable challenges they endured during those long winters...

Fri, June 21 2024 15 Sivan 5784