Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
Today, 62 years ago, Rabbi Dr. Yitzchak Herzog passed away. He was a Chief Rabbi of Israel and was active between the Holocaust and the rebirth of our nation, a most dramatic chapter in our history. He saved more than 500 children after the Holocaust, and returned them to their people. Rabbi Haim Sabato, in his latest book, tells one of the stories that is a reflection of Rabbi Herzog's character. It's a story that teaches us about education and acquiring our identity from the time of birth:
"After the Holocaust, it became known that more than 3,000 Jewish children had been hidden in monasteries and convents and did not have any idea that they were Jews. A wall of silence surrounded the monasteries. Rabbi Herzog went to the Pope at the Vatican. 'Each one of these children is like a thousand children to us,' the rabbi pleaded tearfully. Rabbi Herzog went from monastery to monastery. 'There are no Jewish children here!' the head of a convent told him decisively with a very serious face. The rabbi asked to see for himself. A nun from the convent brought out row after row of boys and girls wearing gray smocks on their school uniforms. The rabbi spoke to them from the heart. 'Who here is a Jew?' he asked. The children stood without moving, without any sign of recognition on their faces. Absolute stillness and silence. Those accompanying the rabbi were filled with disappointment and prepared themselves to continue on to the next monastery on their list since it appeared that nothing more could be done.
And then, one moment before they were about to leave, Rabbi Herzog turned suddenly towards the children and cried out in a loud voice with all his strength: 'Shema Yisrael, HaShem Elokeinu, HaShem echad.' The right hand of seven little children was raised and then placed over their eyes. 'These are Jews!' cried Rabbi Herzog excitedly. Their mothers had taught them to do this when they were put to sleep in their cradles in the days before the darkness came."