Stories Of Greatness

Fighting For Shabbos

On May 3, 1982, Prime Minister Menachem Begin hobbled into a crowded Knesset chamber, tense with...

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 During the most recent Presidential election campaign in the United States, then-candidate Donald Trump delivered a speech in which he recalled how his father, Fred Trump, built a synagogue in New York. He remembered the location well, and he recalled the work that his father had sent him to do in the residential buildings around the Jewish neighborhood near the shul. Rabbi Shmuel Wagner shlita, mashgiach ruchani of Yeshivas Ohr Yerushalayim in Moshav Beit Meir, shares the incredible story of how Fred Trump built a shul for the congregation headed by his father, Rabbi Yisroel Wagner zt”l, and went on to make annual donations to the k’hilah and for many Jewish families in financial distress.

One of the most outstanding stories of escape from Auschwitz-Birknau is the story of Alfred Wetzler and Rudolph Vrba-Rosenberg. It took place on April 7, 1944. According to the opinions of several historians, the Vrba-Wetzler Report, often referred to as the Auschwitz Protocol, one of the most famous documents in the free world at that period, was a major contributing factor in multitudes of Hungarian Jews not being sent to Auschwitz.

As a function of his position, serving as the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel from 1993-2003, R’ Yisrael Meir Lau shlita met with dozens of world leaders – including several American presidents, the Queen of England, King Hussein, two popes and even Fidel Castro of Cuba – and always articulated the importance of Torah, Judaism, and the Land of Israel. He is considered one of the world’s most influential and inspiring religious leaders.

The problems facing a fellow Jew are our problems, and the tears streaming down their faces are just as real to us as they are to them. If we are looking for ways to repent our sins with a complete t’shuvah and herald the holy day of Yom Kippur when we reunite with our Father in Heaven, this is where we must begin. We reach upwards by reaching outwards.

On May 3, 1982, Prime Minister Menachem Begin hobbled into a crowded Knesset chamber, tense with expectancy. He was in pain, recovering from a severe hip injury, and it was with heavy, purposeful steps that he arrived to deliver his El Al speech. He began quietly, factually, declaring that the government had finally decided to halt all El Al flights on Shabbos and festivals – a revelation that sent leftist eyes glaring and hatred flashing in the public gallery where the El Al union men sat.

Over centuries, the Jewish community in Spain had flourished and grown in numbers and influence, though anti-Semitism had surfaced from time to time. During the reign of Henry III (1390-1406), Jews faced increased persecution and were pressured to convert to Christianity. Many Jews were killed, and those who adopted Christian beliefs – the conversos (Spanish: “converted”) – faced continued suspicion and prejudice. In addition, there remained a significant population of Jews who had professed conversion but continued to practice their faith in secret. Known as Marranos, those nominal converts from Judaism were perceived to be an even greater threat to the social order than those who had rejected forced conversion. After Aragon and Castile were united by the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella (1469), the Marranos were denounced as a danger to the existence of Christian Spain and a formal Inquisition was established to deal with them.

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