Events / Holocaust / Judaism

“Passing the Torch” – Judaism after the Holocaust

Photo: Miriam Woelke


Two days ago, I went to a film event of Rabbi Berel Wein. This took place at the Cinema City in Jerusalem and the movie hall was totally packed with Americans and other Anglos. 🙂 It was an American event, no doubt about that. 
After Rabbi Wein’s brief introduction speech, the film he produced began. “But why another documentary about the Holocaust ? Aren’t there already enough ?” Yes, but not necessarily a personal story in connection with the survival of Judaism. After the Holocaust, many survivors didn’t want to have anything to do with G – d any more. I once knew a woman who didn’t even fast on Yom Kippur. Almost every Shabbat, she went to the Synagogue and she would have never given up her Jewish identity. However, she refused to fast on Yom Kippur because she had once promised herself that she would never starve again.
Neverthelesshere are plenty of Holocaust survivors who founded a new family, built a new life and even found their way back to Yiddishkeit. 


Photo: Miriam Woelke


Photo: Miriam Woelke
Rabbi Berel Wein before the film.
Rabbi Wein’s new Holocaust documentary is, among other related topics, about the director of the Israeli  Arachim institution. Arachim is famous for bringing secular Jews closer to Judaism.
An ancestor of director Yosef Wallis used lived on the Spanish island of Palma de Mallorca for many years. After being forced by the church to convert to Christianity and becoming a Marano, the Inquisition accused him of secretly practicing Judaism. The ancestor and his sister were sentenced to death and burnt publicly. When the fire was already burning, one of the Christian prosecutors came up to him and demanded that he would kiss the cross as a kind of salvation. Yosef Wallis’ ancestor refused and was burnt to death. 
The mother of Yosef Wallis originally came from Hungary and almost her entire family was killed in the Holocaust. His parents were Auschwitz survivors and, later on, go married in a DP camp. Their Rabbi under the Chupah was the famous Klausenburger Rebbe.  
The grandfather of Yosef Wallis was killed shortly before the concentration camp was liberated. An SS man forced him to eat pork but the grandfather refused. As a response, the SS man shot him. Yosef Wallis is raising the question why his ancestor didn’t kiss the cross and his grandfather didn’t eat the pork. Nothing would have happened because the two did neither believe in Christianity nor in giving in to the Nazis. However, both Jews were asked to desecrate G – d in public. There were other Jews around and it cannot be that, as in the case of the grandfather, a Rabbi is eating pork in front of his fellow Jews. In this case, both ancestors rather preferred to die. 
Yosef Wallis was born in Israel but his parents moved to the US when he was still a child. He became a secular Jew who, later on in his life, returned to Israel and joined the army. One day he found himself standing in a line of a shop selling pork. All of the sudden he started asking himself why he is buying pork when his grandfather preferred to die instead of eating pork. Yosef Wallis left the shop without buying anything but wanted to find out why his grandfather had preferred to die. He found his way to Judaism and became a religious Jew. In the documentary he states that it is important that, no matter what is happening, a Jew should never leave Judaism. Without Judaism, there is no Jewish nation !
Hundreds of thousand religious Jews were killed in the Holocaust but what do we see today ? No Gentile has ever succeeded in destroying Judaism and the Torah. Chassidic groups recovered and built new communities. So did the Litvishe. Today we have more Yeshivot than ever before. Judaism is blossoming and only this is the guarantee for the future survival.

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