In 1927, Boruch Frankel left his wife and three children in Poland and made the transAtlantic journey by steamer to the New York harbor to try to earn a living and support his family. It was quite a sacrifice. Boruch was a scion of a great chasidic lineage, and his roots were firmly planted in the old country. Yet, he realized that there was greater financial opportunity in America, and together with a fellow immigrant he met in New York started an import business that did rather well. For three years, Boruch and his partner labored in the business and, with Hashem’s grace, they raised more than enough money for their families back home. Soon they would head home and be hailed as models of industrious success.
Toward the end of his third year in New York, Boruch received a telegram that would change his life. His father had passed away and he was required by Jewish law to sit shivah for seven days. Boruch informed his partner that he would be unavailable for the next week due to his personal loss, and his friend assured him that he could manage without him. Boruch sat shivah in his small apartment on the Lower East Side, where his few acquaintances came to pay their respects.
One day, in the middle of the shivah, his partner arrived and sat down opposite the mourner, as per Jewish custom. Boruch was glad to see him and he spoke for a bit about his father. At one point in the conversation, the partner excused himself and pulled out a paper from his pocket. He explained that an important matter came up that required both partners’ signatures. Boruch nodded, and without even glancing at the contents of the paper, signed it and handed it back. After a few more minutes, the partner stood up, intoned the customary words of consolation, and left.
After the week of shivah had concluded, Boruch arrived at his office to find the place cleared out and his partner gone! The man had duped him into signing a paper that gave away his entire portion of the business! Knowing that Boruch would not read the fine print on the document during his period of mourning, he came during the shivah and cheated his one-time friend and partner out of his life’s savings! And during those very days that Boruch was unavailable, he sold the entire business and ran away with the money, never to be heard from again.
Boruch Frankel was left penniless; he couldn’t even return to his family in Europe! He was devastated and just could not understand how a person can sink so low. He walked around for days, telling everyone that this was the worst thing that could ever have happened. But the tides of destiny were coming in, and they held the future salvation of the Frankel family.
Boruch was forced to remain in New York. He took a job and earned some money, and after two more years he applied for American citizenship and became a naturalized citizen. But he truly longed for home and family, and not much later Boruch took whatever savings he had accumulated and returned to Poland, to the loving embrace of his family.
Years passed, and by the summer of 1939 it was clear that war with Germany was imminent. Many Jews wished to emigrate from Poland but had nowhere to go. Boruch Frankel, on the other hand, was an American citizen and was able to procure a visa for himself with little difficulty. Securing visas for his family, however, was an entirely different matter. This was a huge deal that could take months, if not years, to complete. It was decided that his best option was to return to America, alone, and from there arrange for his family to escape the impending war in Europe and join him.
Upon his arrival in New York he worked tirelessly until he arranged visas and tickets for his entire family. His wife and four children were scheduled to depart on September 1, 1939, aboard the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth. To his utter chagrin, he was informed by the shipping company that due to the outbreak of war, the voyage was canceled. His family was stranded in Europe for the time being, but with renewed effort Boruch was able to secure them passage aboard a second ship leaving from the Italian port of Trieste. Baruch Hashem, the Frankel family set sail on November 1, 1939, on the very last passenger ship leaving Italy. From Trieste, to Kosice in Czechoslovakia, to Ellis Island, New York, the Frankel family survived the war.
And the dishonest partner who stole every penny, forcing Boruch to remain in New York? The family believes it was a heavenly angel to effect his rescue!