Tonight we met Irving. Irving was there to greet us at the hotel, I left my family at 5AM, stopped by to see my brother, who I am so proud of, and headed out to JFK. I met up with other students and we headed to our hotel for the night. My room is on the 12 floor, the highest, and the elevator shakes on the way up, room 1204. My roommate is a very nice girl, Chantel. We had Shabbat dinner, with stories of great Rabbi’s and prayers, with the first prayer over the wine, keeping the bread covered so it’s feelings aren’t hurt because it wasn’t prayed over first, as usually. I savored this great dinner with salmon, chicken, salad (real salad), bread, and yummy dessert, because I know I won’t have it again for awhile 🙂
After dinner, apparently the building was on fire, but no one cared and only about 5 people even acknowledged the alarm… a good amount of firefighters came with all their gear to take care of it, which came out to be nothing.. good thing, cus no one even took action!
The session after dinner was amazing.. Irving Roth was 14 years old when he was send to Auschwitz concentration camp. He didn’t understand any of what was going on, but all he knew was that his identity was taken away when he was labeled from feet away with a bright yellow star, kicked out of school, and the field where he played soccer with all his childhood friends housed a new sign that read “No dogs or Jews allowed”. Over the next year, he was put into more and more oppression, until finally he was taken with 90+ others to the gates of his families fate. They separated the group into two, he and his brother in one of the groups and his aunt, uncle, grandparents, and cousin all in the other, who headed straight to “take a shower”. That was the last he ever saw of them. After a year of multiple camps, not able to march anymore, Irving decided with some friends to hide each day. on April 10, 1945 he was found hiding in a crawl space under the building and was taken to the gate of the camp. As he was about to be shot to death, Irving began to pray for a miracle, and about that time an American air raid began to take place, which gave him one more day of mercy. The next day, on April 11, two GI soldiers came into his building, saw a room full of 70lbs. teenage boys and began to weep. That was the day he saw heaven. When it was all over, he returned to his home village, walked into his old home, to find his mother standing in front of him. A righteous Christian woman had provided a place for his mom and his dad to hide during this time and they had both survived. Even after all seemed well, the town still didn’t accept him back into the community. the propoganda and MEDIA was so powerful that the truth didn’t matter. The propoganda became the truth. Sounds too much like today to me.
Even in all of this turmoil, even looking at the # tatooed on his forearm, Irving describes his life as, “always wonderful”. He said that even to this day, there are nights where he will wake up and have to remind himself that he is not there. That he has a bed, with a matress, and a house and food. But through it all, Irving says, ‘losing faith in God was never an option, those who did, did so by choice.”
One thing he said rang so true to me, he said, “righteousness is righteousness, no matter the circumstances..” Bystanders slept on that Friday night that all the Hungarian Jews were taken away.. they were simply bystanders, because they didn’t want to get involved. But then two weeks later they attended the open house auctions of the Jew’s household belongings.. the people that we’re their neighbors. Willing to “get involved” for a bargain deal… are they still just bystanders?
If you listen to a witness, you become a witness… we are the last generation to hear a first hand witness… are we listening?
Tomorrow is off to Poland, I will update after we land, but for now I’M EXHAUSTED from all the traveling!