April 23, 2024
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April 23, 2024
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An Update on My Life, and to an Old Story

I stopped writing earlier this year since, as I explained in my last article (“UN Condemns Holocaust Denial,” January 26, 2022) you cannot make up history. When you have written everything that happened to you in the past, you just stop. That is what I did then.

But one article that I had written a few years ago and left unfinished with an unhappy ending, has come back to life. As I had said at the time, I will update it if—and when—something new develops.

But let me first update my own life.

Since I stopped writing for The Jewish Link, I have, thanks to Hashem, gotten a bit older. I am now 95 and nearing my 96th birthday in a few months. I am happily married to the most wonderful wife, Dorothy. In fact, we are actively celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary this month and next month.

You might wonder about this month and next month. Well, we had planned our chuppah for January 6, 2013. The problem was, we were going to Israel right after the chuppah and planned to stay at a hotel in Jerusalem. Dorothy’s passport was in her maiden name Knapp. I was uncomfortable with checking in at the hotel as Norbert Strauss and Dorothy Knapp. Although nowadays brides often retain their maiden or previous name, it was not something that I was willing to do. Although we would have been legally married, it was the implication that bothered me. So to resolve that problem we went to a judge (who was the partner of my attorney) on December 13, 2022, and he married us according to law in his office. Dorothy was able to apply for a change of name on her passport, and when we got to the hotel I signed in as Norbert and Dorothy Strauss.

My family has grown. My grandchildren have given me, with thanks to Hashem, 30 great grandchildren. Dorothy has had one bout of COVID some months ago, but I have tested negative all the time.

Why has Hashem protected me, when at my age it could have been a serious problem? In fact, why has Hashem given me these many years on the earth? Why has Hashem saved my family from the Holocaust, when most of my immediate family was killed? I have no answer to these questions and consequently I just do whatever I can to live a true and honest life with thanks and appreciation to Hashem in my daily prayers.

I have continued to speak about my Holocaust experience from time to time. A few weeks ago, I was honored by the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City by being asked to make the motzei at their 25th anniversary dinner. At the same time, we received a private tour of the museum, where the items that I had donated were pointed out to us.

Two of my great-grandchildren got married, one in Israel and the other in Teaneck, growing the family further.

Now to the original reason for my update.

A few years ago, as part of my telling my story as described in “My Stories,” I wrote about my bringing a young man, then 14 years old, to the United States from Europe, where he had floundered in a non-Jewish environment although he wanted to be Orthodox. I had seen him in shul one Shabbat morning in his native city trying to find his way through the siddur and Chumash. I helped him and later inquired about his family. To make a long story short, I brought him to the U.S., with his mother and brother following shortly thereafter. I was able to get him in one yeshiva after having been rejected by others. He had great difficulty originally to keep up with the others in his class due to lack of Jewish learning. (Parents divorced, father was not Jewish.) But he eventually graduated.

But in the meantime, things had turned in his mind. He left Hashem! Upon questioning his reason, since I felt he either had been influenced by other students in his class or his older brother, he claimed that Hashem had stopped speaking to him and that is why he stopped believing in Hashem. At the time I tried everything possible with the help of others more experienced than I, but nothing changed his mind. Although I had been paying all his expenses up to the graduation, I was not willing to finance the lifestyle that he was going to lead now. I had wanted to have him continue in Yeshiva University, but he chose Queens College instead.

We broke contact at that point. That was 28 years ago.

I heard nothing further from or about him until a few months ago when I received a package of two books from him out of the clear blue sky. He had in the meantime graduated from a major European university with a PHD in philosophy and classical philology, and his profession now was philosopher and writer. The books were his university thesis and a book that he had published on his study subjects. He wrote me a nice letter thanking me with appreciation for what I had done for him and wishing to let me know where he stood now. Nothing about what had broken up our relationship. I thanked him by email and assumed that this would be the end.

But it wasn’t. We started an email correspondence.

It ended up with being invited to his mother’s house in Brooklyn (he also lives in Brooklyn but in a different part of town by himself) for lunch on a Sunday. His mother, who was Orthodox, had remarried after coming to the U.S., to an Orthodox man, and his older brother, whom he had loved dearly, had unfortunately died from cancer a few years earlier.

During subsequent email correspondence a misunderstanding occurred which he considered insulting; particularly he objected to my unwillingness to have a closer relationship with him due to his self-pronounced atheism. I just could not be friends with someone who did not recognize Hashem. It went against everything that I stood for and believed in all my life.

So, as it stands now as I am writing, we have broken up again. During our correspondence he expressed to me in no uncertain terms that he would not change. My greatest regret is that it will also affect my relationship with his mother, which I had been comfortable with, since she naturally, as his mother, must support him. Although, as she expressed to me, she would love to have him develop different beliefs.

I will keep the reader informed should the future developments warrant it.

Norbert Strauss is a Teaneck resident. In the early days of The Jewish Link he wrote a regular column that was loved by all. His articles are missed and we are so happy to welcome him back this week.

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