Rabbi Ashie Schreier discussed learning from previous generations, and congregant Robert Lindenblatt spoke about how he survived the Holocaust in Budapest, Hungary, during the Young Israel of Forest Hills’s annual Holocaust Remembrance Day, done this year by teleconference on Monday, April 20.
While Jews were taking the riches of Egypt before their Exodus, Moshe was collecting the bones of Joseph. Hashem commanded the Jews to take money and material for the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) but also to fulfill Hashem’s promise to Abraham that his descendants would be enslaved but would leave with great fortune. Yet, a midrash calls Moshe the wise one, not the Jews doing Hashem’s commandment, said Rabbi Schreier.
Moshe was not only collecting the bones (atzamos) of Joseph for burial in Israel but the essence (atzmus) of Joseph. “There were going to be difficulties and challenges,” after leaving Egypt, “although Hashem would be guiding us.” Joseph was someone “who was able to persevere, made the best of the worst possible scenario. That’s the message Moshe took with him.”
“We are only where we are today because of those who have come before us. The sacrifices of people like Mr. Lindenblatt and our own families,” said Rabbi Schreier.
Robert Lindenblatt started his presentation with a silent homemade movie made by a gentile, of Jews and non-Jews in a bomb shelter in Budapest in 1944, the year the German Army invaded Hungary. The German Army’s headquarters was next door, whose soldiers also went into the same bomb shelter during Allied air raids but never said or did anything against the Jews.
Lindenblatt was a very blond four-year-old boy who would go food-shopping with his Jewish nanny who carried a gun and said she would use it. The nanny survived the war.
Then one day, “someone in charge of the building” wanted the Lindenblatts’ apartment. His father was in a forced labor camp but miraculously came home that same night. The rumor was, the Jews were going to be taken away the next morning.
The Lindenblatts escaped to “The Glass House” where 3,000 Jews found protection because of Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz. With the buildings and letters of protection, Lutz saved 62,000 Jews. Robert Lindenblatt’s grandfather was a rabbi who shaved his beard and dressed Austrian. He forged papers at “The Glass House,” saving hundreds. His grandfather was thrown into the Danube River by Hungarian Fascists two weeks before liberation.
However, “The Glass House” did not want children, so Robert’s mother and two siblings lived in an orphanage “that was actually a bakery.” After running out of money, Robert’s mother and her three children went to Robert’s grandmother in one of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg’s “Protective Buildings.”
Despite the Germans knowing their war was lost, they continued to divert manpower, material, and money into their war against the Jews. The Nazis were only in power in Hungary from March 1944 to January 1945, but they killed more than 600,000 Jews. Lindenblatt lost an uncle and his grandfather (the rabbi) during the Holocaust. Robert Lindenblatt ended by saying, “Am Yisrael Chai! Be strong and stand up for your rights.”
Rabbi Judah Kerbel of the Queens Jewish Center chanted a Keil Malei Rachamim in memory of the perished. Rabbi David Algaze of Havurat Yisrael, Rabbi Yossi Mendelson of Congregation Machane Chodosh, and Rabbi Yaniv Meirov of Chazaq recited T’hilim. Rabbi Schreier said Kinos. Some 125 people tuned into the teleconference, which did not end with the usual singing of Ani Maamin as in past years, when attendees were side-by-side.
By David Schneier