Friday, July 27, 2007


In honor of Chai bas Yehudis, who taught me my mamalashen.

Last year I wrote about the Shema as a meditation.

This year, a story for your table:

During World War Two, countless Jewish parents gave their precious children to Christian neighbors and orphanages in the hope that the latter would provide safe havens for them. The parents expected that they, or their relatives, would take these children back if they survived the war. The few parents who did not perish in the Holocaust, and were able to reclaim their children, often faced another horror. While the parents had summoned the strength to survive the slave labor and death camps, or had hidden out for years, those who took their children were busy teaching them the ways of other religions.

[Additionally,] many Jewish children who were taken in by orphanages, convents and the like, had no parents or close relatives left after the Holocaust. When rabbis or distant relatives finally tracked down many of these children, the priests and nuns who had been their caretakers insisted that no children from Jewish homes were in their institutions. Thus, countless Jewish children were not only stripped of their entire families, they were also stripped of their souls.

In May, 1945, Rabbi Eliezer Silver from the United States and Dayan Grunfeld from England were sent as chaplains to liberate some of the death camps. While there, they were told that many Jewish children had been placed in a monastery in Alsace-Lorraine. The rabbis went there to reclaim them.

When they approached the priest in charge, they asked that the Jewish children be released into the rabbis' care. "I'm sorry," the priest responded, "but there is no way of knowing which children here came from Jewish families. You must have documentation if you wish me to do what you ask."

Of course, the kind of documentation that the priest wanted was unobtainable at the end of the war. The rabbis asked to see the list of names of children who were in the monastery. As the rabbis read the list, they pointed to those that belonged to Jewish children.

"I'm sorry," the priest insisted, "but the names that you pointed to could be either Jewish or Gentile. Miller is a German name, and Markovich is a Russian name, and Swersky is a Polis name. You can't prove that these are Jewish children. If you can't prove which children are Jewish, and do it very quickly, you will have to leave."

One of the rabbis had a brilliant idea. "We'd like to come back again this evening when you are putting the children to sleep."

The priest reluctantly agreed.

That evening the rabbis came to the dormitory, where row upon row of little beds were arranged. The children, many of whom had been in the monastery since the war started in 1939, were going to sleep. The rabbis walked through the aisles of beds, calling out, "Shema Yisrael - Hear, Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One!" One by one, children burst into tears and shrieked, "Mommy!" "Maman!" "Momma!" "Mamushka!" in each of their mamalashens.

The priest had succeeded in teaching these precious Jewish souls about the Trinity, the New Testament, and the Christian savior. Each child knew how to say Mass. But the priest did not succeed in erasing these children's memories of their Jewish mothers now murdered - putting them to bed every night with the Shema on their lips.

(thanks to Miriam Swerdlov for the story)

(From TorahTots)







Polish Grunge:

Land of Israel (weird ending):

Father-son (sign):

Shabbat Shalom.

Speaking schedule:

August 7-8 – St. Louis (CAJE):
"You Can Teach the Talmud!"
"Combating Missionaries: The 'Why be Jewish?' Defense"
"Two Plus Five: How to Teach Spirituality"
August 15-16 – Los Angeles (Helkeinu)

(For details, send an email)

Yiddish of the week:
mamalashen — mother tongue

Yiddish review - how many do you know?
anee — poor person
koptsen — panhandler
ballaboss — homeowner; layman
nu — various meanings (see archives)
mishpocha — family
mameh — mother
tateh — father
mazal – (MAH-z’l) luck or fortune, as in, “It was good mazal that....”
beshert – (b’shairt) - meant to be, as in “It was beshert that...”
mine eltern – my parents
mine lair-er – my teacher
hamantashen – Haman-pockets
zeigezunt – all the best (said upon parting)
kesher - connection
Ikh volt veln a kave, zayt azoy gut. - I'd like a coffee, please.
...kave mit shmant. – ...a coffee with cream.
...kave mit milkh. – ...a coffee with milk.
...kave mit tsuker. - ...a coffee with sugar.
Di Fir Kashes - The Four Questions
Oy vey! - Good grief!
mensch — a decent person
rachmanos — mercy
neshoma (neh-SHOH-ma) — soul
minig — custom, as in, "Why do you do that?" "It's my minig!"
Gavaltig — wonderful
Oy gavalt — how wonderful (sarcastic)
Azoy gait es! — That’s how it goes!
Shabbos — Cessation; stopping; day of stopping; weekly sabbatical experience
"Gut Shabbos" — "Enjoy your weekly sabbatical experience"
Neshoma — Soul
meshugass — insanity
meshuganeh — insane
kyna hara — no evil eye
shvitz — sweat
shanda — shame
Lechayim! — Cheers!
Pinteleh Yid — the Jewish feeling in the heart of every Jew
Zreezus — zeal
Mkohm — place (pl. mkohmas)

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