A Rabbi’s Quest to Return Jewish Children to Their People after the Holocaust

Sept. 11 2019

During World War II, an untold number of Jewish children were sheltered by Gentiles, often in orphanages and convents. In 1946, Yitzḥak Halevi Herzog—a Polish-born rabbi who grew up in England and France and served as the chief rabbi of Ireland before leaving for the Land of Israel—traveled to Europe on a quest to find these children, whose caretakers and adoptive parents weren’t always ready to give them up. Herzog, who would later become Israel’s first Ashkenazi chief rabbi, returned to the British-ruled Palestine six months later with 500 children in tow. Shai Ben-Ari writes:

After the Allied victory in Europe in May 1945, Rabbi Herzog maintained his focus on the rescue of the continent’s surviving Jews. By his own estimate, at the end of the war, some 10,000 Jewish children were held in secret by Catholic institutions and non-Jewish families who had bravely taken them in for their own safety.

Before he began the search, [Herzog] stopped at the Vatican, where he sought the help of Pope Pius XII. The rabbi came with a message of thanks for the crucial intervention of Catholic institutions in saving young Jewish lives, but also insisted that the children now be released. . . . While Pius XII did not issue the sweeping public declaration the rabbi was hoping for, the Vatican was indeed helpful in obtaining the release of many of the children.

During his European trip, Herzog visited France, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, England, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Ireland. Much of the work he and his team faced was bureaucratic: they drew up updated lists of children with the help of the respective governments and local community institutions, and went about seeking Jewish organizations with the authority to assume legal guardianship. Once the initial information was collected, it was often a matter of searching through individual villages and monasteries, while using the lists as guides. Volunteers from sympathetic organizations, both Jewish and non-Jewish, were instrumental in this effort.

Get unlimited access to Mosaic: Subscribe now

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories FREE.

Register Now

Get unlimited access to Mosaic: Subscribe now

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories FREE.

Register Now

Read more at The Librarians

More about: Catholic Church, Holocaust, Jewish-Catholic relations, Righteous Among the Nations

With Talk of Annexation, Benny Gantz Sends a Message to the U.S.

Jan. 24 2020

On Tuesday, the former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, who is campaigning for a third time to oust Benjamin Netanyahu from the Israeli premiership, announced that if elected he will seek to annex the Jordan Valley. He added the important caveat that he wants to do so “in coordination with the international community”—a promise that, as many have pointed out, is nearly impossible to fulfill. While it is easy to speculate about the political calculations behind this pledge, Jonathan Tobin suggests that it is also intended as a message to American liberals:

Sign up to read more.

You've read all your free articles for this month. Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture and politics.

Register Now

Sign up to read more.

You've read all your free articles for this month. Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture and politics.

Register Now

Read more at JNS

More about: Benny Gantz, Democrats, Israeli Election 2020, Jordan Valley, U.S. Politics