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When Biden knelt

הנשיא ביידן משוחח עם ניצולות השואה ביד ושם
צילום: לע"מ

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin 

Yesterday, the leader of the strongest superpower in the world met two of the strongest women in the world. This is not just about these two women personally, but about the message and the spirit of the entire generation of Holocaust survivors.

It wasn't written in any protocol, but during his visit to Yad VaShem Biden knelt down for an extended conversation, while Isreali government leaders waited, with Rena Quint and Gita Cycowicz.

"This meeting was like the fulfillment of a prophecy," Gita said.

Gita survived Auschwitz and other camps and, upon liberation, began a journey of 600 kilometers back to her home in Czechoslovakia. Later she would build a life in the United States. Her schooling was interrupted at the age of 12 due to the war, but at age 56 she completed a doctorate in psychology. She later made aliyah and until today has worked as a counselor for Holocaust survivors. Fluent in both English and Hebrew, she accompanies many groups that travel to Poland to increase their understanding of the Holocaust.

Rena was born in the city of Piotrkow, Poland, and was eventually sent to the camp at Bergen-Belsen. This was exactly the same path traversed by my grandmother, Ada Rosenstrauch z"l. At the age of 10, after her entire family perished, Rena was left alone. She eventually immigrated to the United States where she was adopted by a Jewish couple. 40 years ago she made aliyah with her husband and four children. Since then, she has served as a guide for thousands of visitors at Yad VaShem. "Each day I am given another opportunity to help others live fully Jewish lives," she said. "The fact that I survived is a great privilege, but with it comes great obligation and great responsibility."

I am reminded of the last time Biden knelt before a Jewish woman - Rivka Ravitz, chief of staff of former President of Israel Reuven Rivlin and mother of 12. On that occasion, too, he asked to hear the story of refugees from Europe who established a new life for themselves and raised a glorious family of their own.

There will be other headlines surrounding this presidential visit and many controversial issues will be raised. But perhaps the visit's climactic moment is already behind us. Beyond the question of who was waiting for Biden's plane and who would shake his hand, there was the question of before whom Biden would kneel. Yesterday afternoon, that question was answered as he knelt before the story of our people.


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