“You were my wife” before the Holocaust

Leah Rafaeli reports

A very close friend of one of my friends, recently went to a wedding in New Jersey. A Jewish wedding.

Before the ceremony, both families were on the stage or bima. The parents of the bride and groom had previously met, but the grandparents who were all alive and in their 80’s had never met before the wedding. The grandfather of the bride kept looking and looking at the grandmother of groom. He finally said to her, “You were my wife.” There was dead silence and he repeated, “You were my wife.”

After talking to each other, they confirmed that they had indeed been married when they were very young. They’d had no children and were taken to the concentration camps where they were separated. Both looked for each other after the war ended but not finding each other, each one presumed the other dead. Since most of their relatives were wiped out, they had no one to check with and records were almost non-existent.

Fast forward sixty years plus – Both had moved to the United States, married and had families of their own and there they were in New Jersey, watching the grandchildren of their new families marry each other – once again becoming family.

Absolutely amazing.

December 28, 2007 | 38 Comments »

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  1. Keelie one last story for todayTHERE was a certain Brahman in Kosambi, a wrangler and well versed in the Vedas. As he found no one whom he regarded his equal in debate he used to carry a lighted torch in his hand, and when asked for the reason of his strange conduct, he replied: ‘The world is so dark that I carry this torch to light it up, as far as I can.” A samana sitting in the market-place heard these words and said: “My friend, if your eyes are blind to the sight of the omnipresent light of the day, do not call the world dark. Your torch adds nothing to the glory of the sun and your intention to illumine the minds of others is as futile as it is arrogant.” Whereupon the Brahman asked: “Where is the sun of which you speak?” And the samana replied: “The wisdom of the Tathagatha is the sun of the mind. His radiancy is glorious by day and night, and he whose faith is strong will not lack light on the path to Nirvana where he will inherit bliss everlasting.”

  2. Bill you were wrong about Andrew and since you essentially do not believe in the Arabs willingness to compromise or the Arabs ability to compromise and abide by agreements and that you believe they seek our destruction, than by simple deduction there can be no positive result in continuing talking. absence of war or war delayed is not in our interest under the circumstances. Just as in the parable posted above yours ,you can;t change the nature of a scorpion nor an Arab,

  3. Keelie loved the story but not to be topped here is one of mine, also with a moral:

    One day a scorpion is hanging around the side of a stream. A frog happens by on his way across the stream. The scorpion cannot swim so he stops the frog and asks if he can climb on his back for a ride across the water.

    “Do you think I am crazy?” The frog says. “If I let you on my back, you’ll certainly sting me and I’ll sink in the water and die.”

    The scorpion replies, “hey just think about it for a second, I can’t swim. If I sting you, then you’ll die and I’ll sink and die too.”

    The frog thinks for a second and decides that makes sense, so he proceeds to give the scorpion a ride across the stream.

    About half way across the stream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog screams “What are you doing? Why did you sting me? Now I am going to drown and die and you are going to sink and die too.”

    The scorpion says “because I am a scorpion.”

  4. Yamit, as far as I can recall, no one has recently shown me to be wrong in my views or wrong in how I got to those views.

    Some people may disagree with me from time to time. That is fine.

    As near as I can recall however, all they ever offer up is their opinion without, without reference to all relevant facts and circumstances woven together in an argument based on logic and reason as to why their opinion and reasoning as to how they got there, is sounder then mine.

    What is not fine by me is when one seeks through disingenuity to attack my views.

    You are aware that my recent disagreements with another Israpundit contributor were unpleasant because he chose to deliberately and very badly mistate my views and then attacked what I did not say. He failed miserably.

    Such efforts in a debate to mistate one’s opponent’s views in order to create straw people to knock down are less then honorable and I dismissed his views as such.

  5. Yamit – snarling with a purpose…

    The story goes (an Indian story) that a holy man was walking through a village in his way to a pilgrimage, when he heard a commotion. When he asked someone what the problem was, the man replied, “Sir, we are having terrible problems with a very fierce snake. It keeps attacking people and biting them, and many people have been killed or injured.” The holy man immediately walked out to a nearby field and shouted out, “Snake! Snake! Come here!”

    The snake appeared before him and bowed down. “Snake,” said the holy man, you must vow not to bite anyone from now on, because I am about to initiate you as a seeker. The snake swore he wouldn’t bite anyone any more, and the holy man proceeded on his way.

    On his way back through the village, the holy man was aware of a kind of festive feeling, and he heard yelling and laughter coming from the field where the snake was. Fearing the worst, he rushed to the field, passing some people carrying clubs, and called out to the snake. No reply. The holy man walked around the field and eventually found the snake, badly beaten and broken; obviously about to die. “What happened?” asked the holy man. “Sir, the people came to the field, they found me, beat me with clubs and dashed me into the ground… and now I fear I am about to die. But sir, I didn’t bite anyone as I promised.”

    “Fool!” exclaimed the holy man, “I told you not to bite, but I didn’t tell you not to hiss!!!”

  6. I’m a little late on this one Bill, but the snarling I do is based on the arrogance I see; Shy Guy calling people mamserim (in other words, some kind of lesser being according to the book) because of the strange circumstances of this tale.

    Fortunately, Yamit showed us some wisdom from a couple of great sources, so I can now go back to my whimpering…

  7. Good, then we are on the same wavelength.

    I actually don’t take things too personally, except when people disagree with me.

    If you are meaning Andrew Hingston, Ted’s post of Hingston’s e mail is very strange. It doesn’t sound like Hingston, unless he wrote that under the influence when the gates of self control and inhibitions were left open.

  8. Bill I know so was my comment: I seldom take any thing said here too seriously as I don’t know the people behind the words . This is sometimes a good thing as we can let go without inhibitions.. I still like you a lot Bill don’t take things to personal. Andrew is a rare exception in my book!!

  9. Yamit, is it that your lunch did not sit well with you that you were not in the mood for a little ribbing? Apart from my innocuous comment, the message of the levity of my opening line was only levity.

  10. Bill Your am My pm so I have already eaten lunch. The beauty of a blog like this is that ea. of us can relate to for what ever reason any item posted including interactions between u. Thats Our individual choice I would proffer. Thanks for your concern anyway>

  11. Yamit and Keelie, what got you two into such snarly moods this morning?

    Shy Guy’s expressing in post #1 some disbelief in the veracity of the story, hardly warrants the your reaction that has now spun out for 19 more back and forth posts.

    It is a nice story, true or not and speaks to one of the very plausible consequences of the Holocaust. I am sure that if this story is not true, there are others in a similar vein that are.

    Its a nice new day so put a smile on your faces, stop nattering at one another on this story and sink your teeth into more meaty fare that this blog offers on a daily basis.

  12. Keelie; Your question Re: meaning of life etc. reminded me of Perkei Avot ( The wisdom of the fathers her is a breif encapsulation of what I mean:

    The Golden Rule

    The saying of Hillel which introduces the collection of his maxims in the Mishnaic treatise Pirkei Avoth mentions Aaron HaKohen (the high priest) as the great model to be imitated in his love of peace, in his love of man, and in his leading mankind to a knowledge of the Law (Pirkei Avoth 1:12).

    In mentioning these characteristics, which the Haggadah then already ascribed to Moses’ brother, Hillel mentions his own most prominent virtues. Love of man was considered by Hillel as the kernel of the entire Jewish teaching. When a Gentile, who had just been harshly dismissed by Shammai, wished to become a Jew asked him for a summary of the Jewish religion in the most concise terms (“while standing on one foot”), Hillel said: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Law; the rest is the explanation; go and learn” (Shab. 31a). With these words Hillel recognized as the fundamental principle of the Jewish moral law the Biblical precept of brotherly love (Lev. xix. 18).

    From the doctrine of man’s likeness to God, Hillel deduced man’s duty to care for his own body. According to Midrash Leviticus rabbah he said “As in a theater and circus the statues of the king must be kept clean by him to whom they have been entrusted, so the bathing of the body is a duty of man, who was created in the image of the almighty King of the world.” In this work Hillel calls his soul a guest upon earth, toward which he must fulfill the duties of charity.

    In Avot, Hillel stated “If I am not for myself, who will be? And when I am for myself, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?” The third part contains the admonition to postpone no duty, the same admonition which he gave with reference to study (Avot 2:4): “Say not, ‘When I have free time I shall study’; for you may perhaps never have any free time.”

    The precept that one should not separate oneself from the community, Hillel paraphrases, with reference to Eccl. iii. 4, in the following saying (Tosef., Ber. ii.): “Appear neither naked nor clothed, neither sitting nor standing, neither laughing nor weeping.” Man should not appear different from others in his outward deportment; he should always regard himself as a part of the whole, thereby showing that love of man which Hillel taught. The feeling of love for one’s neighbor shows itself also in his exhortation (Avot ii. 4).

    In the following maxim is expressed also his consciousness of his own insufficiency: “Trust not thyself till the day of thy death.” How far his love of man went may be seen from an example which shows that benevolence must act with regard to the needs of him who is to be helped. Thus a man of good family who had become poor Hillel provided with a riding horse, in order that he might not be deprived of his customary physical exercise, and with a slave, in order that he might be served (Tosef., Peah, iv. 10; Ket. 67b).

  13. Keelie I will paraphrase the Rambam: who said that for the intellecual the study of Torah and and Talud is a whole world unto itself, for the common man the working stiff the guy who has to work 10-15 hours a day to support his family saying and believing the Shema Yisrael is enough!

  14. South and Yamit – this is the beauty of Judaism: that there is no dogma; essentially we can approach God from whatever angle we wish, books notwithstanding.

    Right now Judaism, as I keep on saying, is being held captive by people who define it as being whatever the books say, and because this approach requires substantial intellect, it (a) strokes the egos of those who have been graced with that kind of intellect and (b) precludes those who were not born with such intellectual prowess, from seeking and finding the One, God.

    In fact, this intellectual approach, while useful to some practical extent, is a dead-end.

  15. Oh – and by the way, Shy Guy, just to pass the time, perhaps you can give us a brief synopsis of the meaning of Birth, Life, and Death, as well as the relationship of we humans (not just Jews) to God.

  16. Shalom Shy Guy,

    You don’t have the background re:




    There were many stories in the lands of the Czars where the rabbi was asked if the food for the wedding was kashrut.

    Knowing there were no alternatives and options, the REAL rabbis addressed the question accordingly.

    It takes much mental work and time to grasp all of this.

    Haven’t watch television in 30+ years.

    Kol tuv,

  17. You don’t know anything.

    Shy Guy (I wish) – the only difference between you and I (and I’ve said this before on another thread) is that I know with absolute certainty that I know nothing, and you don’t, because you believe (from your books) that you know it all. Religious ego.

    Is “Kumbaya” the best you can do?

  18. Shy Guy:

    Religious professionals played a huge role in the unification and survival of the Jewish people. Yeshiva students do the immensely important work of preserving Judaism. The current situation is different.

    Though almost all Jewish males historically studied Tanakh, few of them pursued the religion as a full-time occupation. Judaism, a religion of worldly deeds, emphasizes the need for productive work. Whatever Rabbi Karo surmised, Hillel worked arduously, and so did Maimonides. Their work did not prevent them from becoming among the most prominent Jewish scholars of all time. Rabbi Akiva joined Bar Kochba’s army. In more distant times, Joshua bin Nun – a prophet – led a Jewish army; obviously, Joshua devoted much time to military exercise. Even a hundred years ago, professional rabbis were few. Jewish communities gladly paid wages to several rabbinical leaders, and provided meager charity to some others, but overall the number of religious professionals was negligible. They constantly interacted with common Jews, and imparted religious knowledge and morality. The picture of closed communities of yeshiva students and rabbis, divorced from Jewish society and work, wearing 300-year-old garb – which was nice and modern at the time it was introduced – is appalling.

    Then as now, yeshivas were privately funded. The State of Israel gives very little money to yeshivas. So what’s our problem with the professional Jews? It’s defamation. They misrepresent Judaism. Our religion is about productive life, not monastic isolation and a black market economy. The Talmudic sage Rabbi Zeira communicated with bandits, and they eventually reformed. Rabbis exist for the sake of the Jewish community. Whether the community is good or bad, religious or otherwise – the rabbis must live in it and actively communicate with common Jews – trying to change us for the better. Instead, today’s ultra-Orthodox rabbis imagine the common Jews as tax-paying, army-serving human cattle unworthy of Judaism.

    The rabbis who isolate themselves from the Jewish world in a time of spiritual crisis are not worthy of their title.

  19. Shy Guy, I lived in Jerusalem for a short time but you guys made it too hard. So I decided to leave you and the Arabs and try for some peace and quiet in Yamit where you guys helped to make me a refugee, Before that I was an original founder of Meron ha Golan the first settlement on the Golan. Where were you ? What is your army unit, how long did you serve? what have you built or contributed to either Israel the country or to the Jewish People. Do you work or are you living off of my work? What is your personal Value to our society now and in the future? Your presupposed religiosity is for you not for anyone else. Your choice your preference. The Torah is said to have a hundred faces yours is not one I relish to see nor even try to understand there are still 99 others to choose from!!

    score 1 to O my favor!

    Have a wonderful and peaceful Shabat

  20. Yamit, Shy Guy sounds as if he has studied at the same “Yeshiva” as Tar Yag (remember Tar Yag?), where Judaism is defined by hard laws, and these laws are secondary to being fully human.

    As I said before, this is why Judaism has failed to evolve, and consequently, why many Jews have rejected it; not because they reject God, but because they reject this false book-defined piety.

  21. as re: to Beit Din, depends on the Beit Din and How much money they are asking for under the table,

    Which is why I said “Torah observant Bet Din”. Maybe you’ve never come across one. Indeed:

    I have never seen an incorruptible Beit Din.

    Funny. I’ve never come across the one’s you’re referring to except for those occassional case that gets reported. Maybe it has something to do with the company you keep but I wouldn’t know.

    Don’t get me started Shy Guy I have lived here long enough not to be bullshited!

    Assuming “here” is Israel, I’ve been living in Yerusahalyim for around a quarter of a century. And you?

    Shabbat Shalom

  22. I am glad to hear you have all the modern conveniences a TV being one. Good for you! as re: to Beit Din, depends on the Beit Din and How much money they are asking for under the table, to rule in favor of one side or another. I have never seen an incorruptible Beit Din. When I lived on Beit Hashita the kibbutz would bribe the Rabbi in Affula to perform marriages that otherwise might be questionable. That was my first experience with your holier than thou Rabbinate, since then I have personally experienced and can give you list of tens of thousands of cases were Corrupt Rabbis execute corruptly their mandate in the administration of Halachic responsibilities! The Rabbinate here is responsible for half the lawyers in the country making out financially pretty well. Is there some kind of secret agreement between the two?

    That said Not all can be painted with the same brush but enough so that if given a choice most run from having to deal with them or suffer the consequences. Don’t get me started Shy Guy I have lived here long enough not to be bullshited!

    My point in addressing you was your comments while your right to make them is not in dispute just the message that I found petty and unnecessary and without purpose!

  23. I was feeling just fine until someone informed me that I’m narrow minded for some reason. The story I heard was not from the Internet but from people in London. I do indeed have a TV and I’m no less aware than you of holocaust reunion stories. Children from the remarried mother’s side are indeed Mamzerim and no Torah observant Bet Din could conclude otherwise – unless she wasn’t properly married to hubby #1 in the first place.

    So far you’re batting zero, Yamit.

  24. Lighten up Shy Guy, the story is plausible , and whether this version or another may leave room for doubt in your very narrow mind I happen to know people in similar situations who found ea, other after many years. I know you don’t have a TV and get most of your information from round about sources including the message boards. A few months ago brother and sister found ea, other ea thinking the other dead and were reunited in Jerusalem many such stories over the years, Even if it is just a story it is a nice story with all the elements of Soap Operas. Why look for ways to reduce something positive to crap?

    Re: the Mamzerim part a liberal Beit Din might give get and Heftir on the spot or not. Aguna is a problem in Judaism and I know there are ways around such situations. especially after 50 or 60 years. AS they all live in America where nobody ever heard of this bullshit! Objections you raise are of no consequence or importance!

  25. I’m very suspicious. I’ve heard the rendition of this story 15 or so years ago and taking place at a London wedding. In this version, one grandmother looked at the other side’s grandfather and asked him to remove his hat, revealing a unique birth mark. Thereupon, the grandmother proclaimed there and then under the Chupah that the wedding could not continue because her offspring were Mamzeirim as a result of never being divorced from her long lost husband and remarrying and having illegitimate children.

    Two such cases? The first one was hard enough to believe.