On Sunday night, May 5, the community participated in the annual Yom HaShoah commemoration with a virtual shiur in memory of Martin Dov Berger z”l, a Holocaust survivor and father of Ephraim Berger, the MC of the program.

Mr. Berger welcomed everyone and shared that his father dedicated his life to Holocaust education.

Rabbi Moshe Rosenberg, Rav of Congregation Etz Chaim, and Rabbi Daniel Rosenfelt, Rav of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, led everyone in reciting T’hilim. Following this, Rabbi Shmuel Marcus, Rav of the Young Israel of Queens Valley, shared introductory remarks.

Rabbi Marcus shared that seven centuries ago, the Rambam wrote we should know that the Arab Muslim nation causes us great persecution. No nation has done more evil to us than this nation. No other does so much to generate hatred of us and to humiliate us. Rabbi Marcus pointed out that the Rambam was a famous physician in Egypt and yet this is what he wrote.

Later in history, the Muslim Mufti supported the Nazi design and efforts in the Final Solution. It is a painful reminder that we need Hashem for our ongoing salvation. From the East and the West, they seek to harm us. “We are unique and alone. When we recognize our true distinction, we will be blessed to dwell securely. We have to be proud of our uniqueness and reinforce our bitachon in Hashem as the source of our salvation.”

Next, the keynote speaker, Rabbi Daniel Glatstein, Rav of Kehilas Tiferes Mordechai in Cedarhurst and author of Sifrei Maggid HaRakia, spoke. He shared that people say that October 7 was worse than the Holocaust. When we consider the sheer numbers murdered during the Holocaust, this claim has no standing. Rav Yisrael Meir Lau responded to this statement by saying that during the Holocaust we were helpless, and they killed six million in three years. No one fought to save the Jews. No one said we need to help innocent Jews being murdered. Today, we have a homeland and an army, and Jews willing to sacrifice their lives to save our nation.

Rabbi Glatstein recounted how the Jewish nation won wars in the past in a short amount of time. Did the United States ever win a war in six days or 18 days? How did we do it? Rav Lau said, “It is because we have a Father in Heaven who wants us to be in our land.”

Rabbi Glatstein’s grandfather, Rav Mordechai Glatstein, was in Auschwitz and he saw Eichman who had invited the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini. They were standing arm in arm. For entertainment, they beat Jews so they couldn’t have children.

The Vilna Gaon taught that throughout history our two enemies are Eisav and Yishmael. They are represented by an ox and a donkey, and the reason you can’t plow with those two animals together is because Eisav and Yishmael together would destroy the world.

Rabbi Glatstein listed the four exiles, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome. He posed the question and answer of the Maharal. Why isn’t Yishmael on the list? He answered that Persia encompasses the galus of Yishmael. Persia had the same personality of waging wars. The Purim story comes to a new light with this idea in mind. Achashveirosh was Yishmael, and Haman was Eisav.

Rabbi Glatstein taught that, in light of the events of October 7, it is worthwhile to study the Arab role in the Holocaust. When the Grand Mufti met with Hitler, he told Hitler that we have the same enemy. There is no question that it was the Grand Mufti’s goal of the Final Solution. The Grand Mufti founded the Palestinian movement.

The Grand Mufti organized pogroms against the Jews in Iraq and then he went to Italy and then West to Berlin. He was prominent in Nazi propaganda, and he arranged a division of Himmler’s SS.

During the Nuremberg Trials, Eichman’s right-hand man, Alois Brunner, answered every question meticulously. He implicated the Grand Mufti in the Final Solution. Muslims were guards to the trains taking Jews to the death camps. The Grand Mufti visited the death camps and made plans to build these camps in Samaria.

At one point, when a deal was being brokered to save a train of Jewish children in exchange for prisoners of war, the Grand Mufti objected. He said these Jewish children would come to Palestine.

Rabbi Glatstein explained that October 7 was not an isolated event. This is their tradition from the Grand Mufti. October 7 was not worse than the Holocaust; rather, it is simply a continuation of the Holocaust.

He then shared a miraculous episode, which we should all focus on, involving General Erwin Rommel, who was nicknamed the Desert Fox. Rommel swore allegiance to Hitler, and his abilities intimidated the British. The British general said that Rommel was becoming a mystical enemy for our troops. The world feared Rommel. Rommel’s troops moved quickly across the world, and in ten days they would be in control of the entire Palestine. Egyptians swore allegiance to Hitler. The British retreated. The Arabs welcomed Hitler’s forces and they equated Hitler with Muhammad. In Cairo, they reported that Hitler was a prophet who came to oppose the Jewish people. The Arabs used the Heil Hitler greeting and there were swastikas hanging from windows and gates. The best-selling book in the Arab world was Hitler’s hate-spewing book, Mein Kampf. On the radio, they broadcast that they would abuse Jewish wives and murder Jewish children. They put chalk marks on Jewish homes claiming which ones they would take when Rommel took over.

Many Jews were terrified and many committed suicide as Rommel’s forces approached.

There were 500,000 Jews living in Palestine. The Jews were determined to change the decree from Above.

Rabbi Glatstein then retold the miracle that happened at El Alamein. Holy tzadikim in Israel joined together in unprecedented prayer. They circled the land reciting prayers. The Brisker Rav decreed T’hilim should be recited nonstop every hour of the day and night. Thousands gathered in Meron at the kever, and they set up fast days. Some yeshivos declared a two-day fast from speaking. When the German army was at the gates, there were three days and nights of T’hilim and no eating or sleeping. Jews were crying and wailing. Everyone across the land fasted on the 17th of Tamuz – even secular Jews. They were united. Jews went to Kever Rachel, crying and praying. A rav circled Israel saying Kabbalistic prayers. The Imrei Emes, Rav Avraham Mordechai Alter, the Rebbe of Ger, said Rommel will be stopped.

There was a strong military upset. At El Alamein, Rommel was stopped. It was the first victory against the German army and a turning point of the war. Then Hitler attacked Russia by surprise. Rabbi Yehuda Fatiyah said angels carried the prayers of the Jews and caused the switch from Syria, where Hitler planned to attack to Russia. El Alamein was a decisive battle of World War II. Over a thousand German soldiers surrendered immediately. The British had been testing the pipeline and, by hashgachah, it pumped sea water instead of regular water. So, the German soldiers became so thirsty, they surrendered.

Rabbi Glatstein emphasized that this is the power we have when we come together in prayer.

The Gerer Rebbe taught that we have to unite in prayer to uproot evil from the world. Each person must help his or her friend. When we come together, nothing can stand in our way.

Rabbi Glatstein shared that we see this in our days. October 7 was a continuation of 70 years ago. It was not isolated events. The Haggadah says that Lavan sought to destroy us. Lavan was a “sweet talker.” In every generation, we have to go to learn why we came out of Egypt. The Jews cried out with increased prayers and Hashem could not say no.

There was no natural explanation why Rommel stopped. The only explanation is the prayers of the Jewish people. This gives us great encouragement. Never forget what happened at El Alamein and the power of the tzibur praying together. We have to commemorate the lives of the k’doshim and the Survivors. With our prayers and unity, we hope to celebrate the g’ulah sh’leimah.

The program ended with Mr. Kenny Mittel leading everyone in singing “Acheinu.”

Participating Community Shuls:

Agudath Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, Beis Midrash of Kew Gardens Hills; Beis Midrash Zichron Shalom, Chazaq, Cong. Beis Yosef D’Ulem, Cong. Charm Circle, Cong. Chasam Sofer, Cong. Etz Chaim, Cong. Ohel Yitzchok, Jewish Heritage Center, Kew Gardens Synagogue Adas Yeshurun, Yeshiva Kesser Torah, Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, Young Israel of Queens Valley.

By Susie Garber


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