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It does not matter how far away you go

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

If I had not heard this story with the names of actual people, I would never have believed it. But Franny Weissman shared with me the following tale that, in fact, began more than 100 years ago and ended yesterday:

"I came on aliyah from the United States and got married to Evyatar, a native Israeli whose grandmother's parents, along with two of her siblings, were murdered at Auschwitz. Ten of her siblings survived and nine of them decided to make aliyah together, but one sister settled in the United States, never telling anyone there she was Jewish. She married a gentile, did not even reveal to him her identity, and announced that after the Holocaust she would not bring children into the world. When her family tried to connect with her, she ignored them. She and her husband also left instructions to cremate their bodies after their death. Over and over again I heard the story of Aunt Adelle. There are more than 350 family members now in Israel, four generations, but she has always been the one piece missing from the puzzle.

Two years ago I was asked to go the United States to find girls for an educational program in Israel. I agreed after my husband said to me: 'Even if you bring just one soul to Israel, it will be a great success.' They scheduled a lecture tour for me throughout the United States, and one of the lectures was five minutes from the home of Adelle in Florida. I could not believe it. I arrived at her home, knocked on the door, and asked for Adelle Schwartz. The housekeeper said that there was no one there by that name, but then I understood that she had changed her name. I entered and saw someone who looked a lot like her siblings. I connected them through a video chat and they began to cry in Hungarian. Even the housekeeper cried.

Before we parted, I clasped her hand and said: 'Adelle, Hitler is finished. The war is over, you have a huge family, you are not alone. It's not important how far away you are. You can always return. Don't allow Hitler to win. Come to Israel to be buried there, at least.' We parted emotionally and kept in touch. She who was born into a family from which she went far away, and I who joined this family after being born far away from it.

Two weeks ago we received notification from an American attorney that Adelle had passed away at the age of 102. It turned out that she changed her mind and instead of being cremated, wanted to have a Jewish funeral. We exerted ourselves to bring her to Israel from which she had distanced herself her entire life. Yesterday at five o'clock in the evening at Moshav Nir Etzion, her funeral took place and she was buried in the family plot. All of us were there and it was one of the most formidable experiences of my life. We saw with our own eyes the meaning of the following verse: Even if your exiles are at the end of the heavens, the Lord, your God, will gather you from there, and He will take you from there. (Deuteronomy 30:4) What had my husband said to me? If you travel to the United States and bring just one soul to Israel, it will be a great success.'"


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