April 14, 2024
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April 14, 2024
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Ezra Weinberge is a June 2013 graduate of The Frisch School who is learning at Yeshivat Lev HaTorah this year. Ezra made this speech to his fellow students as they were about to enter Auschwitz Concentration Camp on their Heritage trip to Poland:

On the first Shabbat of yeshiva, I was introduced to the idea that within every neshama (soul) resides one fundamental aspect that forges and fuels the inextinguishable spiritual drive of the Jew. This unwavering quality of faith is known as the “Pintele Yid”—the eternal spark of the Jew. Through the tides of time, the survival of the Jews as both a nation and as a people has been tested in ways beyond human comprehension. This reality could not be any more self-evident than the dark days of the Holocaust.

The only time my grandfather ever spoke about his experience during the Holocaust, was during the Passover Seder. We were up to “We were slaves…”, when my grandfather said in Hungarian, “At times, it appears that even miracles can occur in hell.” The table fell silent, as we gained a small glimpse into the true power of the Pintele Yid through the following story.

During the War, my grandfather carried with him a family picture along with his bar mitzvah tefillin at all times in his shoe. While on a death march, the Nazis ordered my grandfather to take off his shoes and discovered his tefillin. After beating my grandfather, Satan’s henchmen proceeded to throw his tefillin into a pit of fire filled with human corpses. Without thinking twice, my grandfather flung himself into the pit in order to save his only and most precious possessions. There he lay amongst the burning flesh which was being consumed by the flames of hatred. After what seemed like an eternity, my grandfather emerged from the pit of death with his tefillin and picture both unscathed. He went on to explain that the picture served as a reminder of the past, while his tefillin served as the manifestation of the future. Following his liberation in 1945, my grandfather had his tefillin checked by a Sofer and they were found to be kosher. My grandfather wore them every day until he passed away in 1999.

The winters of Poland are brutal and unforgiving. I am currently wearing three layers of shirts, long johns, sweatpants, three pairs of thermal socks, winter boots, a pair of gloves, a cashmere scarf, a down ski jacket, and a rabbit fur hat to boot. Yet, I feel the constant chills run throughout my body. I have spent almost five days in the country, and have yet to see a single hint of a smile on anyone’s face. The natives’ caricatures appear as grey and lifeless as the cobble stone floor on which I stand. The people of this land are free to live where they please without the fear of losing their lives. As I stand here about to enter Auschwitz, I can’t even begin to imagine what horrors my brothers and sisters endured. While the Nazis may have stripped away our homes, torn apart our family’s, desecrated our places of worship, and blackened countless souls, they could never take away the eternal power of the Pintele Yid. We stand here today not only as free Jews in the year 5774, but as the living testament to the 6 million Pintele Yids who perished Al Kiddush Hashem. After 2,000 years of exile, we are studying Torah in the Jewish homeland, for we are the offspring of the Jews like my grandfather who never forgot who they were or what they stood for in longing for a better future. Even as we stand in the shadow of the valley of the death, I could not feel any more alive, because what was once the spark of the Pintele Yid is now a raging fire.

By Ezra Weinberger

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