For the week ending 17 December 2005 / 16 Kislev 5766

Holocaust Survivors Find a Home

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A telephone call from the office of the Hillel Organization at Hebrew University in Jerusalem aroused excitement in the office of the Dean of Ohr Somayach, Rabbi Mendel Weinbach.

"We have some sefarim rescued from Poland after World War Two," said the caller, "and have no place for them. Would you care to have them?"

Polish-born Rabbi Weinbach, who came to the U.S. with his immediate family a year and a half before the war and remained there until he made aliya to Israel in 1963, answered that he was coming right over to pick up the sefarim. On October 28, 1998 a very moving ceremony was held in the Yeshiva to welcome the aged volumes of Mishna, Talmud, Rambam and Tur that survived the Holocaust although their owners did not.

Inside the cover of these holy books were labels crediting the Central Library of Warsaw of the Central Committee of Polish Jewry and the Committee of Religious Communities in Poland for presenting these sefarim to Israel. Ever since they arrived at Ohr Somayach these aged volumes, still in usable condition, have occupied a place of honor on two of the library shelves in the Deans office and have been used by him for teaching students.

It was only when the Jerusalem Post, in its November 22, 2005 issue, featured a story about a similar volume that the idea came to locate relatives of the original owners of these sefarim. The Post story told how Dov Tennenbaum of Tel Aviv came across a Mishna tract in a local synagogue, which had been set aside for burial because of its deteriorated condition. One of the hundreds of such sefarim which arrived in Israel in the 1950s, this one had written on its inside cover "Moshe Shmuel Ehrlich Lodz". A search on Yad Vashems new Holocaust Database turned up the name of Joseph Ehrlich, a brother of the owner who now lives in Florida. A telephone call to him revealed that the 21-year old owner and the rest of the family were murdered in the Chelmno death camp in 1942. Six decades after the Holocaust the sefer of his martyred older brother was on its way to him.

Taking a cue from his story, Rabbi Weinbach asked to do a search on the Yad Vashem Database on the names which appeared in some of the sefarim on his shelves. He managed to find the name of a relative of Yisrael Kilbert, a resident of Lodz, whose name and address appear in three of the Talmud volumes at Ohr Somayach. Shoshana Bresler, a cousin of Kilbert, registered at Yad Vashem in 1956. Another discovery was Moshe Kantorovitz, who registered in 1956 a brother-in-law of Yechiel Yaakov Weinberger whose inscription in a set of Mishnayot indicates that he acquired these sefarim from the estate of his father-in-law.

The names we were unable to find relatives for are S. Pik, who resided at 37 Maja St. in Lodz; Yisroel Meir Zaneimorovsky, of 39 Pietrokover in Lodz; and Avrohom Friedman of 31 Narlovitchek, Lodz.

If anyone can help us trace the relatives of any of these original owners, we would greatly appreciate their contacting us at: office@ohr.edu so that these unique Holocaust survivors may find a home with the relatives of their original owners. In the meantime they have found a home at Ohr Somayach where they serve as testimony to the faith of Jews during the Holocaust that "we will outlive the enemy".

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