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A Ḥasidic Leader’s Tale of Holocaust Survival

When the SS murdered Benzion Halberstam in a forest in eastern Poland in 1941, his son Shlomo had already been groomed to succeed him as rebbe of the Bobover Ḥasidim. Shlomo, immediately recognized by his father’s followers as their new leader, set about trying to provide aid and comfort to his flock while attempting to escape with as many of his family members and fellow Ḥasidim as possible. Samuel Heilman tells his harrowing story:

[In 1941, Shlomo and his own son and presumptive successor Naftali] were hustled to Bochnia in southern Poland, where they hoped to “disappear” in the ghetto there. In January 1942, Shlomo’s wife, younger children, and mother-in-law joined more than 8,000 Jews who flooded into what would become a large labor camp in Bochnia. . . .

Through the skills of one or two of his Ḥasidim with a talent for forging documents, Shlomo acquired false papers as a Hungarian. Identified thus as what Germans called an Ausländer (foreigner), he was able to escape the restrictive boundaries of the Bochnia ghetto, as well as to help others flee by providing them with forged papers or with food. . . .

From outside the ghetto, [thanks to] his forged papers, Shlomo would slip into the ghetto to spend some time with the remaining Bobover Ḥasidim. In secret gatherings at Sabbath’s end, after curfew, when the Ḥasidim would gather together, hold hands, and form a silent circle, as if dancing and singing, he would offer hushed words of Torah, ḥasidic teaching, and spiritual encouragement. At times he stole Naftali, who was eleven years old at the time, in with him, taking the risk that if he were caught on the streets after curfew they would both be punished, if not shot. He wanted the boy to see how a rebbe had to act.

Shlomo . . . argued that the best method to prepare for the imminent coming of the messiah (whose arrival would surely end Jewish suffering, a belief that roared through the hearts of many of those whose belief in God’s redemption rose in the face of horror) was to pave his way by saving Jewish children from death or abandonment at the hands of non-Jews.

Read more at Moment

More about: Hasidism, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Polish Jewry

Why Israeli Arabs Should Drop Their Political Parties

Sept. 20 2017

Even as Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy rights, freedoms, and economic opportunities unrivaled in the Arab world, their political leadership is more intent on undermining the Jewish state than on serving their actual interests. Moshe Arens, a former Israeli defense minister, comments. (Free registration may be required.)

[T]he Knesset members of the [Arab] Joint List have nothing but criticism for Israel and praise for its enemies, be they Iran, President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Hizballah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, or Palestinian terrorists. . . . Although spanning the ideological spectrum from Communism (aside from the North Koreans, the only Communists still around), the Muslim Brotherhood (called the Islamic Movement in Israel), and Baathists (the Balad party), they are united in their hatred of Israel. Naturally, they do not call for Arab integration into Israeli society.

Those who oppose the polygamy rampant in the Arab community oppose Israeli measures to curb it. Those who are against the abuse of women and so-called honor killings think these are “local problems” that should be handled by the Arabs themselves. Nor do they want the Israel police to handle the crime running wild in Israel’s Arab towns. Keep Israel out of your lives, is their common motto. They oppose young Arabs volunteering for either military or civilian national service. . . .

Within Israel’s Arab community there is a struggle between those who insist on rejecting everything Israel stands for while supporting its enemies and those who want to integrate into Israeli society and take advantage of the opportunities it offers. . . . Can Israel’s Arabs become a beacon of democracy and modernity for the Arab world, or will they provide proof that Arabs are not yet prepared to enter the 21st century? . . .

[E]ach year, growing numbers of young Arabs volunteer for national service and join the ranks of Israel’s military and police. At the moment, the only way this trend can express itself politically is for these individuals to drop their support for the Joint List in favor of Israel’s existing political parties, and for these parties to welcome Arabs into their ranks.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli politics, Joint List