April 13, 2024
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Rabbi Asher Lopatin to Officiate Bar Mitzvah of Son of Czech Ambassador

Rabbi Asher Lopatin of Riverdale and Yeshivat Chovevei Torah will be headed to Prague this August to officiate at the bar mitzvah of the son of Andrew Schapiro, the current United States Ambassador to the Czech Republic, rekindling a story that dates back to the Holocaust in the 1940s.

Schapiro, who was based in Chicago before relocating to the Czech Republic, is the great grandson of a woman who tried to escape Prague during World War II but didn’t make it. Last year, he was appointed to go back as the US Ambassador to the country where his great grandparents lived. In Prague, Schapiro is maintaining the same Jewish and religious life he had observed stateside, including maintaining a kosher kitchen, which he inherited from the previous US ambassador who also was a kosher-keeping, observant Jew.

Schapiro’s family history is chronicled in the published book, Letters from Prague, about his great grandmother who had written about the atrocities of the Holocaust in deeply devoted letters to her children and grandchildren. His great grandmother and great uncle were trapped in Prague and were unable to escape when the Germans invaded. Schapiro’s grandparents, however, had the fortune of being able to escape to America because the father was of Russian origin, and the quota in America still allowed for Russians to enter the country.

In a series of 77 letters, Schapiro’s great grandmother wrote about her desire to flee the unfortunate circumstances that were befalling the Jewish people at the time, with pleas all the way up to Eleanor Roosevelt and other close and not so close family members. Unfortunately, however, she could not get out. She died in Theresienstadt in 1942; her brother, Schapiro’s great uncle, died in Auschwitz. “There’s such love that the great grandmother has for her kids and especially for her grandkids, Andy’s mother,” Rabbi Lopatin said. “You can really imagine her in shamayim [maintaining] the connections to the generations.”

Rabbi Lopatin is excited to make the trek to celebrate in a place where the extermination of the Jewish people failed. “They tried to kill us—they do kill many of us, but we’re still alive,” he said.

This summer, a big delegation of Jews from the States will be headed to celebrate the bar mitzvah, showing that the Jews have prevailed.

By Tamar Weinberg

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