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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Rebuilding is remembrance

It's columns like this one from today's Jerusalem Post that give me hope for this country. In May 2004, 9-months pregnant Tali Hatuel and her four daughters were murdered by Palestinian terrorists who were so thorough that they went back to murder the 2-year old daughter in her infant car seat. After the murders, her husband David sought solace with the son of the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe, Rav Yekusiel Yehuda Halberstam zt"l. Rabbi Halberstam's wife and eleven children were murdered in the Holocaust and Rabbi Halberstam re-married and rebuilt his life. The son with whom David sought solace was Rabbi Halberstam's son by his second marriage. David recently remarried. This is a great story, but I'm only giving you part of it:

THE SECOND reason that in Kiryat Sanz they minimize the once-a-year memorial is that the survivors have thrown themselves single-mindedly everyday for the past 60 years into rebuilding their lives, raising large families, and running a hospital that serves the entire Netanya region of a quarter of a million people. To be sure, when the siren is sounded the residents and schoolchildren stop and recite Psalms. But there are no official Holocaust lectures or ceremonies. Instead the residents constitute a 24/7 year-round living memorial.

In this they took their cue from Rabbi Yekutiel Yehuda Halberstam, who founded Kiryat Sanz 50 years ago. A survivor of the hassidic dynasty of Sanz, he had been the young, gifted chief rabbi of the city of Klausenberg, Romania. His wife and 11 children were murdered by the Nazis, and he barely survived the slave labor and concentration camps.

In the aftermath of the war he did not allow himself prolonged mourning for his own losses, but instead went about spiritually and physically rehabilitating the young survivors whom he encouraged to come to the displaced persons camps near Munich where he established kosher kitchens, yeshivot and girls' schools.

Hundreds of survivors adopted the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe as their leader, my neighbors among them. Sometimes I feel like I am living in a gold mine, and when I scratch the surface, a nugget of testimony and experience is revealed as these survivors tell their stories.

Yankel Levy, who lives downstairs, explains that his parents were the first couple to be married by the Klausenberger in the DP camp. "All my mother had for a wedding dress was a sheet resewn as a gown. The Rebbe danced ecstatically at the simple wedding in the camp."

A neighbor across the street in Kiryat Sanz says the Rebbe attached the highest priority to helping couples marry and start families. "When he lay in the camp hospitalized with severe typhus, another rabbi in the camp had been asked to perform a wedding but did not have a proper ketuba text to use for the wedding contract. Although the Klausenberger was suffering from a very high fever, he proceeded to dictate the entire ketuba from memory."

Another Sanz resident describes the extraordinary effort the Klausenberger made to help with survivors' marriages by assuming the role of parent for hundreds of orphaned young people, teaching orphaned brides the basic laws of Jewish marriage, and taking a fatherly interest in girls who were frightened.

In the Rebbe's own words, "Around us all are bare and destitute. They are left here as solitary souls: here a bereaved young man, there a lonely young woman. When we assist them to unite under the wedding canopy, we build a new home to heal the straits of our people."


BECAUSE OF the emphasis on pushing forward as the preferred form of remembering a tragedy, it is not surprising that David Hatuel came to Kiryat Sanz for succor when his wife, nine months pregnant, was murdered by terrorists along with their four daughters.

Hatuel knew that the Klausenberger Rebbe, who passed away 10 years ago, had also lost his wife and children, but had remarried after the Holocaust and rebuilt his family. Hatuel came to Sanz to talk with the current Sanz Rebbe, the son of the Klausenberger. In a Pessah interview in the Sheva weekly Hatuel explained why. "The Rebbe from Sanz gave me tremendous encouragement and strength, since he himself comes from a family that experienced a similar tragedy and in the face of that disaster his father rebuilt his life with renewed strength and went forward. That is my motto. I identified closely with Sanz approach."

Hatuel has taken a similar route: "I remember the moment of the decision. On the third day of mourning I told four close friends that I intended to rebuild my life; I would not let this keep me down."

He recently remarried and as a living memorial established a fund under the auspices of the Puah Institute for couples with fertility problems. The "Tali Byad Rama" fund (named in memory of his wife and his four daughters) helps childless couples with fertility treatment expenses. There are few more moving statements than that by David Hatuel when he said of his project. "If a couple calls me and announces that they have a child after 20 years, to my mind this is the truest memorial."

I cannot urge you enough to read the whole thing.

And to close the circle, in about an hour and a half, I will be attending my weekly shiur with one of Rabbi Halberstam's prime students, whose father was one of Rabbi Halberstam's prime assistants in the DP camps.... Israel is a small country....


At 9:05 PM, Blogger Lois Koenig said...

The article took my breath away...I had to try twice to get through it,as it is, in the end, uplifting...this time of the year, on Yom HaShoah, here in the States, we see the Shoah denigrated more and more, with scant mention in the MSM, and connected to all instances of mass murder, but this cannot be done. The Shoah is unique, and we cannot ever let the world, and younger generations of Jews forget a pre-planned and organized attempt to kill every Jew in Europe, and no doubt everywhere, in the mind of a Jew hater..his goal.

The world knew, the US knew, but chose to ignore it.....

'Israel is a small country'...yes, but it is a country like no other, and for us, in the Diasporah, it is in our hearts.

Thank you for posting this....

Never forget


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