Thursday, April 11, 2013

Holocaust Story: From Three Boys To Three Rabbis

ראש החודש השני תשע"ג

Once upon a time, there were Jewish boys who were born in Europe, one in Germany, one in Poland, and one in Belgium. Unfortunately for them, their Europe was not so gradually being taken over by Nazis.

Thank God, all three of these Jewish boys survived World War II, and the Nazi atrocities of one sort or another.

Also, thank God, all three successfully found their way to the only true homeland for Jews, Eretz Yisrael (The Land of Israel).

All three were able to do what so many others had pined for, yet would never make it. All three did what countless American Jews could do in a heartbeat, if they really wanted to, if they really put their minds to it, and stopped making excuses. 

R' Aharon Mordechai Zilberstrom ztz"l, R' Yisrael Meir Lau shlit"a, R' Meir Bransdorfer ztz"l
All three were or still are prominent, HAREDI rabbis.

Rabbi Aharon Mordechai Zilberstrom ztz"l who passed away last summer, was a prominent Chabba"d rabbi, who even taught at Machon Lev for a time, and was also known for his correspondence with the late Lubavitcher Rebbe. During the Holocaust, he lived and learned in the forests of France, with a group of boys connected with the Jewish Partisans.

On a personal note, I would see him when I spent Shabbath in Me'ah She'arim. He was very humble. Yet, when he spoke at a farbrengen, for example, which was not often, you could he a pin drop. Everyone attended to what he had to say.

Yisrael Meir Lau
leaving Buchenwald
(Israel's National Photo Collection)
Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau shlit"a served as Israel's Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi from 1993 - 2003, and currently serves as Tel-Aviv's Chief Rabbi. Along with his two brothers, he survived Buchenwald.

Rabbi Meir Bransdorfer ztz"l was a hasid of the Toldos Avraham Yitzhak Rebbe, and sat on the Beis Din Tzedek [BaDa"Tz] Eidah Haredis, in charge of Kashrus, and in particular Shehitah. His responsa were published under the title Knei Bosem. During the Holocaust, he and his family survived in hiding in France.

 But, that's not the end of the story.

These three rabbis, with their shared experiences of having survived the Holocaust, knew each other as boys.

One story I heard was that they met on the same ship, the "Mataroa," which brought them to Israel. R' Zilberstrom was several years older, and I could not find any collaboration for this his knowing the other two. I did find that both R' Lau and R' Brandorfer were in the Atalit Transit Camp at the same time.

If anyone has any additional information to offer, I would appreciate it.

It would be quite a story, these three prominent rabbis, who knew each other, and were even friends, coming to Israel together, yet in the end, followed relatively different paths.

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