June 17, 2024
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June 17, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Tributes to the Living

I might have mentioned in the past that when we arrived in Montreal to be the new rabbi and rebbetzin of the Young Israel of Val Royal we realized that many of our congregants were survivors of the Holocaust. We were fortunate that our immediate family members were able to escape the atrocities of the Germans and this was a new experience for us. What stood out in our minds was the positivity and work ethic that these beautiful people had despite the horrific experiences they had suffered.

By the time we met them they had already been living in Canada for a number of years and were established in businesses, owned their own homes, and were raising beautiful families filled with hope for the future. Rarely, if ever, did they speak of their past experiences, although whenever there was a simcha in the community and a number of them were invited, inevitably they would all end up sitting around a table singing the song of the Partisans. I still remember the tune in my head and how they looked.

Recently a book was gifted to me—it arrived in the mail out of nowhere. I knew nothing about it having been written.

Several months ago, quite by chance, I was with four of my children returning from the cemetery on the day of my Mordechai’s yahrzeit. We went to Patis for a bite and before we realized what was happening, a couple jumped out of their chairs and came running over with great excitement to kiss me and hug us.

Benjie and Donna Tripp are former Montrealers. Donna is the daughter of Rabbi Sidney and Jewel Shoham and Benjie is the son of Marsha and Leon Tripp. It would not be wrong to say that Donna spent many of her high school days in our home almost as a sister to Malkie and definitely as a family member to all of us. Benjie’s family were members of our shul. His father was, in fact, the president of the congregation for many years. Lo and behold they found each other and now live in Florida with their beautiful family.

It is actually about Benjie’s father, Leon, that I want to share my thoughts. The book that I received unexpectedly about three days after connecting with the Tripps was written by Dr. Benjamin Tripp, in collaboration with his parents Leon, z”l and Marsha.

Marcia and Leon, both survivors, rarely if ever spoke of their lives before they arrived in Canada. This book was written at a point in their lives when it was important for Leon to make sure his grandchildren and further generations knew their story.

When I think back, I only knew “Leibel” as a man who had a sweet smile on his face, almost saintly, always eager on Shabbos to sing a niggun with a beautiful voice which frequently led our kehilla in davening. I knew nothing of his past and he never let on about the tragedies he lived through. Raised in the town of Zmach among gedolim, none realized that one Yom Kippur in 1939 would be the last of any type of normalcy in their lives.

As was written by Leibel as a directive to his grandchildren, who learned this story from the book: “My wish for you, my grandchildren, is that you never hear the unjust sound of a gun, but rather always be reminded of the just sound of a gavel. My wish is that you never hear the knells of doom and death that I heard, but rather you hear the beats of Jewish life and celebration.”

His entire shtetl was wiped out and then he spent years on the run and had unbelievable experiences and losses; these would be unfathomable to us except for the fact that at the moment in Eretz Yisroel we are seeing similar terror today.

What I realized while reading this book is how little I knew of Marcia and Leon. They were good friends, but I never knew the trauma they had experienced because of the glint in Leon’s eye. Always one of positivity and simcha. I regret now that we did not spend more time listening to stories and the history of these tzadikim. Many, as I mentioned, did not speak of their previous lives. They concentrated on the good, giving tzedakah, learning Torah and singing loudly for the world to hear. I wouldn’t be surprised if his parents and siblings heard him as I remember him loudly singing Shmulke’s niggun.

Hershey, Tobi, Benjie and Jackie, I feel confident that you will carry on the legacy of your very special parents who loved you so much. It is obvious by the way you treat each other and the way you are bringing up your own children.

I would like to encourage anyone who does have access to a family member, neighbor or friend who has lived through this painful era in our history to listen if they want to tell you their story. We all have so much to learn from these heroes.

I would encourage everyone to read “A Legacy of Lions” by Benjamin Tripp, Leon Tripp and Marcia Tripp. You can find it on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Legacy-Lions-Benjamin-Tripp/dp/197993083X or elsewhere online.


Nina Glick can be reached at [email protected].

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