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Meet your Neighbor

He is living in Lodz.” I almost fainted. Before returning to Lodz, I sought the young man who gave me the information leading to my father’s address to thank him. He showed me all the beautiful sites, Maidanek, the treasure, demoitzer, with all the crematoria. I traveled back to Lodz and found it. I was told my father was in the vegetable  market. I got to the market and it was a huge enterprise, maybe 50,000 to 100,000 people were there. I’m searching and searching and searching, walking, walking, walking – I can’t believe it, I found him! I approached him, gave him the nod and then he asked me in Polish, as people were afraid to speaking Yiddish, “Who are you?” So I couldn’t take it any longer, this charade, so I started speaking in Yiddish and I said “Tatte! Dee deken- stmich nisht? Father, don’t you recognize me?” He recognized my voice, he didn’t recognize me. He fainted. There was a whole tumult there. We got back to his apartment.

Let’s fast forward for a minute, the next 10 years where did you    live?

- I was living in Germany 3-4 years, and then Canada and the United States.

So how long have you been in the US?

- I came in 1960.

And the seforim here. I see the Aruch Hashulchon. These are not just general books, but they are of a scholar.

- Yes, especially my Rambam L’Am, this is my favorite. I bought it because the Lubavitcher Rebbe said that everybody should learn the Rambam L’Am.

How did you decide to connect to theLubavitcher Rebbe?

- I accept everybody that is Jewish. I don’t discriminate. I don’t have any Rebbes. I am a centrist Jew. I stay in the center anything that is positive Jewish I accept be it Zionism, Chasidism – anything that is positive for the Jewish people- if it’s extreme I don’t go for it.

So that basically would be your hashkafas hachaim, outlook on life?

-  Yes. I took it. I learned it from the Neviyim. I am in the center of the Jewish people. And not the extreme.

As an aside, do you  use  computers?

- No. Don’t forget I’m not an American.

What does that have to do with any- thing?

- Well, an American has machinery for everything. In America to buy a newspaper you need a car for $20,000 to go for a block. You need a nice car to show off to your neighbors – the neighbors zol fardreisen – szol eim krenken - and that is the American life.

A yeshiva boy asked me to teach him in Yiddish. So we opened the Tanach and I said if you don’t know a word just ask me and I’ll translate. Then I asked him, “Do you know who Jabotinsky was?”

So I laughed

- You laugh? To me schnat isz – it cuts into my heart. Then I asked do you know who Trumpledor was? Who Achad Ha’Am was? Finished – Do you know who Acher was? Yaa yaa yaa hooray! He knew Elisha ben Avuyah – So I said, “You know an Acher of 2000 years ago – why don’t you know an Acher from your own times?!” Another yeshiva boy came in and I asked, “Do you know what it means gezeiras tach vtat?” He had no idea.

And how old were these kids?

- About 20. Ribono shel Olum!  How is it feasible that somebody should learn in the yeshiva and not know what gezairos tach vtat are? 650,000 Jews were slaughtered by Chmielnicki – entire towns were totally wiped out -and a young man should not know about this? And as far as Zionistic interest – forget about it. Ask any passerby on the street-who was the second President of Israel -they won’t be able to tell you! Why shouldn’t he know his history?

This incident occurred when I was in Israel. I was with my daughter, and we went to the museum Beit Hatfutzot. In came a group of Israeli women soldiers, chayalot, about 15 of them. And I was so curious about them so I went over to see what they were doing. It was an exhibit entitled Safrut am yisroel and they had a lecturer discussing Moshe Rabainu, the Rambam, all of a sudden one of them interjected loudly “Ani lo tzarich et haram- bam - we don’t need the Rambam.” “Az ma at tzaricha?” (What do you need?) “Shakespeare ani tzricha.” So I answered her, “Shakespeare lo shelach; HaRambam hu shelach!!”

We show a Jewish girl the greatest talmid chochom, the greatest writer and philosopher, and she says that non-Jewish writer is better! The same with the yeshiva boy – vus bistee a yid, far vus, der ganze zach is sezan ongelainkf fim de yidishe folk as dee bist a chailek fun dim yidishe folk! So why would you call yourself Jew?

But perhaps it is correct not to be exposed to these personalities and their thoughts?

- But they are a part of   you!

You have a right hand and you have a left hand, but it is one body!

You mean it’s important to know why an Achad HaAm was an Achad HaAm and a Chaim Grade was a Chaim Grade?

- Yes and why Chaim Nachman Bialik was a Chaim Nachman Bialik.

And of course, you’ll probably think that he was an apikores

– yes? Well, my son has an extensive library of Rav Kook’s works and he states that Bialik was a ba’al tshuva. If you don’t want to know, then you are rejecting your existence.

What do you mean, rejecting your existence?

- Rejecting your existence as a Jewish people. The Jewish people are not made up of only one kind. This goes back to their original designation, from the time we left Egypt. We are going out to build a nation – why do we need 12 flags – why do we need the 12 tribes, everyone with its separate flag and territory, why not have one flag?

You have a right hand and you have a left hand, but it is one body.

-RGB

 

Mr. Sherman is a 20 year resident of Kew Gardens Hills, davens at Yeshiva Ohr HaChaim, and religiously attends the YIKGH morning Kollel for retirees. He has 2 children, 4 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren. The painting of Jerusalem hanging in his home was done by his granddaughter-in-law, Miriam, who comes from Bnai Brak.

Mr. Sherman would be happy to hear from you. Contact editor@kolhakavodnews.com

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