The Human Side of the Story

For the week ending 23 October 2010 / 14 Heshvan 5771

Never Give Up Hope II

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

In last week's issue we wrote about the lesson those involved in outreach to alienated Jews could learn from the story of a ring lost in the sea returned after 30 years. A recent CNN documentary amplified this lesson of never giving up hope by interviewing two Polish former neo-Nazis who only recently discovered their Jewish roots.

Ola and Pawel were very involved in the skinhead neo-Nazi movement and one day Ola recalled that when she was 13 years old her mother told her about their family's Jewish ancestry. Determined to investigate further, she went to Poland's Jewish Historical Institute. There she confirmed what her mother related about her ancestors hiding their Jewish identity to escape Nazi persecution.

When she also discovered that the same was true of her skinhead husband a dramatic change came over the couple. They began attending an Orthodox synagogue and eventually fully embraced Judaism. Today Pawel is studying to work in a kosher slaughterhouse and Ola is working as kashrut supervisor in the synagogue kitchen.

Warsaw Chief Rabbi Michael Shudrich, who has served as their guide, thus sums up the story:

"It says on a personal level never write somebody off. Where they may have been ten years ago doesn't have to be where they are today."

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