Jewish History Soundbites
1897: A Year of Transition

1897: A Year of Transition

August 13, 2022

Though change is generally a gradual process through history, it’s worth noting how several momentous events which were indicators of a dynamic Jewish community all occurred during the year 1897. The first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, the founding of the socialist Bund political party in Vilna, the Pulmoss Hamussar in Lithuania and the founding of the Tomchei Temimim Yeshiva of Chabad in Lubavitch. Are these seemingly unrelated events which differ so much in ideology, goals and constituency at all connected? Or do all four separate events indicate some unifying trends taking place in the volatile situation the Jewish People found themselves within as the 19th century came to a close?

 

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The Working Group & its Desperate Rescue Attempts

The Working Group & its Desperate Rescue Attempts

August 5, 2022

The Slovakian Working Group was likely the most heroic attempt at Jewish rescue during the Holocaust. Dealing directly with the SS and their Slovak collaborators, members of the Working Group bribed the perpetrators, smuggled goods and Jews across borders and disseminated information regarding the development of the Final Solution to Switzerland and Hungary.

Representing the full gamut of Slovakian Jewry, the Working Group included Gisi Fleischmann of the Zionist movement who was also a representative of the Joint Distribution Committee, Rav Michoel Ber Weissmandel who represented the Orthodox community, the Zionist leader Dr. Oskar Neumann, the Neolog rabbi Armin Freider, and the assimilationists Dr. Tibor Kovac and Andrej Steiner. Together they formulated ever daring plans to save Jews. Though most of their plans didn’t come to fruition, their heroism stands as the most daring attempt to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust.

 

To dedicate an episode in the Jewish History Soundbites ‘Jewish Saviors of the Holocaust’ series, please contact Yehuda at yehuda@yehudageberer.com 

 

With Tisha B'Av approaching, check out Aleph Beta's collection of inspiring Tisha B'Av videos. Rabbi David Fohrman, founder of Aleph Beta, explores some of the most beloved Tisha B'Av texts to discover the deeper meaning and relevance of the day. 

 

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From Young Rosh Yeshiva to Senior Sage: Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer Part II

From Young Rosh Yeshiva to Senior Sage: Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer Part II

July 28, 2022

Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer (1870-1953) was a great Torah leader of the 20th century, whose life story spanned eras and continents. As a young teenager he studied in the vaunted Volozhin Yeshiva, then married into the prestigious Frank family of Kovno, where he subsequently was appointed rosh yeshiva of Slabodka. This was followed by his departure for Slutzk where he remained as rosh yeshiva and later as communal rabbi for decades.

Following the formation of the Soviet Union and the challenges of maintaining religious life therein, he immigrated to Palestine in 1925. There he assumed the leadership of the Eitz Chaim yeshiva and served in several leadership positions in both the yishuv and later in Israel, where he oversaw the growth of the emerging Torah community.

 

To dedicate an episode in the Jewish History Soundbites ‘Jewish Saviors of the Holocaust’ series, please contact Yehuda at yehuda@yehudageberer.com 

 

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From Slabodka to Slutzk: Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer Part I

From Slabodka to Slutzk: Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer Part I

July 25, 2022

Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer (1870-1953) was a great Torah leader of the 20th century, whose life story spanned eras and continents. As a young teenager he studied in the vaunted Volozhin Yeshiva, then married into the prestigious Frank family of Kovno, where he subsequently was appointed rosh yeshiva of Slabodka. This was followed by his departure for Slutzk where he remained as rosh yeshiva and later as communal rabbi for decades.

Following the formation of the Soviet Union and the challenges of maintaining religious life therein, he immigrated to Palestine in 1925. There he assumed the leadership of the Eitz Chaim yeshiva and served in several leadership positions in both the yishuv and later in Israel, where he oversaw the growth of the emerging Torah community.

 

To dedicate an episode in the Jewish History Soundbites ‘Jewish Saviors of the Holocaust’ series, please contact Yehuda at yehuda@yehudageberer.com 

 

Jewish History Soundbites is coming to NY! Register here for the upcoming tour of the Mt. Judah cemetery with Yehuda Geberer on July 29, 9:30 am

 

For sponsorship opportunities about your favorite topics of Jewish history contact Yehuda at:  yehuda@yehudageberer.com

 

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Jewish Saviors of the Holocaust Part III: The Sobibor Revolt

Jewish Saviors of the Holocaust Part III: The Sobibor Revolt

July 17, 2022

Within the framework of Operation Reinhard, the Nazi extermination of Polish Jewry, the SS built three death camps in Eastern Poland - Belzec, Treblinka & Sobibor. The latter was the smallest of the three, and a quarter of a million primarily Polish and Dutch Jews were killed in its gas chambers during its year and a half of existence. It was at Sobibor that on October 14, 1943 a great prisoner escape took place. Led by the son of a Polish rabbi named Leon Feldhendler & a Soviet Jewish Red Army officer named Sasha Pechersky, these two unlikely leaders joined together to formulate a plan to save not just themselves but to give all of the 600 inmates at Sobibor an equal chance to escape.

The revolt killed several SS officers, 300 Jewish prisoners made it to the forest and nearly 50 survived the war. As they broke for the fences, Pechersky demanded that anyone who survive should tell the world what went on in Sobibor. 

 

To dedicate an episode in the Jewish History Soundbites ‘Jewish Saviors of the Holocaust’ series, please contact Yehuda at yehuda@yehudageberer.com 

 

Jewish History Soundbites is coming to NY! Register here for the upcoming tour of the Mt. Judah cemetery with Yehuda Geberer on July 29, 9:30 am

 

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Jewish Saviors of the Holocaust Part II: From a Tunnel in Novogrudok to the Bielski Partisans

Jewish Saviors of the Holocaust Part II: From a Tunnel in Novogrudok to the Bielski Partisans

July 14, 2022

On the night of September 26, 1943 232 Jews escaped through a tunnel from the Novogrudok Ghetto. Nearly 170 survived, primarily by joining the Bielski partisans who operated nearby in the Naliboki forest. This was likely the greatest escape in Nazi occupied Europe throughout the entire war and Holocaust.

The tenacity and courage of the last Jews of the Novogrudok ghetto to dig a 250 meter tunnel leading to the forest, combined with the capability of joining Tuvia Bielski and his partisans, facilitated one of the most astounding stories of Jewish survival during the Holocaust. Tuvia Bielski famously said that he prioritizes saving lives over killing Germans. The result was that his partisan unit was a family camp which saved over 1,200 Jews, among them the escapees of the Novogrudok tunnel. 

 

To dedicate an episode in the Jewish History Soundbites ‘Jewish Saviors of the Holocaust’ series, please contact Yehuda at yehuda@yehudageberer.com 

 

Jewish History Soundbites is coming to NY! Register here for the upcoming tour of the Mt. Judah cemetery with Yehuda Geberer on July 29, 9:30 am

 

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Growth & Consolidation: The Lev Simcha

Growth & Consolidation: The Lev Simcha

July 7, 2022

Rav Simcha Bunim Alter (1898-1992), the Lev Simcha of Ger, was a leader during a time period of growth and consolidation. Having grown up in Poland and emerged as a great Torah scholar, he moved to Palestine in 1934, and then returned to Poland shortly before the war and was a crucial player in facilitating his father’s escape from the Nazi inferno. Upon his older brother the Bais Yisrael’s assuming the mantle of leadership in 1948, the Lev Simcha sojourned in Paris and Antwerp for several years before returning to Israel. In 1977, at the age of 79, he became the leader of the Ger Chassidic community, and immediately embarked on a series of innovative measures to enhance the lives of his chassidim whom he cared for in a fatherly way. He pioneered the establishment of Chassidic communities on the periphery for cheaper housing, and encouraged his followers to look after their health and quit smoking. In many ways he expressed his practical understanding and ability to creatively confront the changing demographics his era had been presented with. On the world scene, he continued the legacy of his forebears as the leader of Agudas Yisrael in the political realm, and presented the idea of the Daf Yomi of Yerushalmy at the Knessiah Gedolah in 1980.

 

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Jewish Saviors of the Holocaust Part I: Monsieur & the Belgian Orphans

Jewish Saviors of the Holocaust Part I: Monsieur & the Belgian Orphans

July 5, 2022

Jewish History Soundbites is proud to launch a special series entitled ‘Jewish Saviors of the Holocaust’. It will explore the narratives of Jews under Nazi occupation risking their lives to save others during the Holocaust. Each unique profile will explore another story, angle and individual (or group of individuals) who though their own lives were at risk still did everything in their power to save others.

The series opens with the story of Yona Tiefenbrunner, known to the orphans he saves as ‘Monsieur’. Born in Germany, he arrived as a refugee in Belgium shortly before the war’s outbreak. He initially opened an orphanage at his own expense in order to assist German Jewish refugee children. With the Nazi occupation of Belgium and the subsequent deportations in 1942, his Brussels orphanage emerged as an island of rescue, as the Nazis miraculously allowed the orphanage to operate and spare the children from deportation to the east. Maintaining a semblance of normalcy under increasingly challenging conditions, Yona managed to care for the orphans' physical and religious welfare until liberation. Following the war, the orphanage relocated to Antwerp and cared for children survivors until its closing in 1960. 

 

To dedicate an episode in the Jewish History Soundbites ‘Jewish Saviors of the Holocaust’ series, please contact Yehuda at yehuda@yehudageberer.com 

 

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An Enlightened Song: The Story of Shir

An Enlightened Song: The Story of Shir

June 27, 2022

Prague has had its fair share of characters throughout its storied history, yet Shlomo Yehuda Rapoport (1790-1867) or Shir as he was known was definitely one of the more interesting ones. Born into a rabbinic family in Lvov, Shir married the daughter of Rav Aryeh Leib Heller, the author of the Ketzos Hachoshen. Though he remained a scholarly, observant and rabbinic Jew for the remainder of his life, he also associated with the emerging Galician Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment) of his era. 

His intellectual pursuits included the study of medieval Jewish philosophy, languages, general science, history and literature, while his social circles included the famous maskilim of Galicia. In an attempt to alleviate his financial struggles his friend Yosef Perl arranged for his appointment to the rabbinate of Tarnopol. Traditionalist opposition made the position unsustainable, and in 1840 he was appointed rabbi of Prague where he remained until his passing. 

 

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Captain from Kovno: Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor

Captain from Kovno: Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor

June 19, 2022

Perhaps the most acclaimed leader of Russian Jewry of the 19th century was Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor (1817-1896). A long-time Rabbi of Kovno, his impact reached the far reaches of the Russian Empire and beyond. He served as the leading posek in all halachic matters, the arbiter of many disputes and lent his name to diverse causes such as the Kovno Persushim Kollel and Chovevei Zion. Exhibiting leadership on the burning issues of the day, he forged a relationship with the financial elite in St. Petersburg and with Czarist government officials lobbying on behalf of the general community. 

 

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