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A story for International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Yonatan Stavisky, a third grader at the HaBe'er school in Jerusalem, was asked to write something about the weekly Torah portion for his classroom's newsletter. It seems to me that on this particular day, the story he wrote about needs to be heard, and not only by third graders:

"These last Torah portions describe leaving Egypt and the command to eat matzot. Each year around the Seder table, our family makes this story personal: It's the story of my great- grandfather, Yosef Zalman Kleinman, z"l, a Holocaust survivor from Auschwitz who was a witness at the Eichmann trial. This is the story he told:

'On the 18th of May, 1944, they announced in our ghetto that all the residents of our street had to evacuate. We would be allowed to take only what our backpacks and suitcases could hold. My mother collected flour and all the families began baking bread so that we would have something to eat during the long journey ahead. The oven was in use all night long, and our turn to put dough into it arrived just before dawn.

As the sun came up, around ten minutes after we put our dough into the oven, the order came for all of us to immediately leave our homes and walk to the synagogue courtyard that was outside the ghetto. Our bread had not yet been baked. We delayed leaving for several minutes while we hoped, meanwhile, that it would bake, but the shouts from outside got louder. We took out the half-baked loaves from the oven. They were still sizzling and burned our hands. Mother shoved one hot loaf into each of our backpacks, but the heat went through the backpacks and burned our backs. In the middle of the street, we could not take it any longer. We stopped, removed the steaming bread from our backpacks and put it in our handbags. This was an unforgettable moment. And now, every time we learn in the Torah about the first Seder night, and about the dough of the children of Israel that did not rise, I tell my children and grandchildren about my history.'"

This is not only the story of Yonatan and his great-grandfather, z"l, but the story of us all. In the face of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, we simply need to tell it: Thousands of years after our forefathers prepared matzot in Egypt, and eighty years after Yosef Kleinman's mother baked bread in haste during the Holocaust, Yonatan told the story to his third grade friends in Jerusalem.


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