Judy Mintz and Joan Lurie Goldberg report on a commemorative event on November 9, 2023, hosted by the Touro University Hans Goldschmidt Institute for Human Rights and The Holocaust.
This annual event, chaired by Professor Anne Bayefsky, began with a reminder of why during this most critical time since October 7th we must also remember the difficult memories from the Holocaust.
Rabbi Alan Ciner, the Vice President of Community Engagement of Touro University, shared how in Biblical times Abraham and Sarah welcomed people into their home with kindness. This tradition is true of the State of Israel of welcoming “Jews and others”, but is dependent on the IDF for security and protection.
Peter Reisman, a member of Touro’s Board of Governors and 16-year IDF veteran, began his remarks describing the Night of Broken Glass, when for the first time Jews were arrested just for being Jews and sent to concentration camps, but then the evil events of the October 7th terrorist attack made him rethink his message. He expressed wonder why the world didn’t condemn Hamas and how the victims became the perpetrators who brought the attacks on themselves. He emphasized how IDF training includes a moral imperative about what should and should not be done and the protection of human rights. He warned Never Again Must Be Never Again.
The featured speaker Nate Leipciger, a 95year old Polish Holocaust Survivor, shared his miraculous story of survival. He explained how he feels an obligation to speak for the 6 million. With his amazing memory intact, he began as a ten-year old when Kristallnacht occurred. He feels it is a privilege to share his story which started in 1938 when he was attacked for being a dirty Jew. He first lived in a ghetto, was sent to slave labor and concentration camps, had confrontations with SS guards, made it through many selection processes of who was to live and who was to die, and at the end of the war, became part of a forced death march. All through the years he was most fortunate to be with his father who refused to let him give up and always watched over him. He felt that miracle after miracle occurred as he surpassed the average four-month life expectancy for prisoners that a Nazi guard warned. At war’s end, he and his father were blessed and joined by other family-aunts, cousins, and an uncle. His mother and sister did not survive. Eventually, sponsored by an uncle, Nate and his dad went to live in Canada.
Nate ended his account with his “now” and becoming in 1978 a spokesperson for Holocaust remembrance and education. He even went back and studied history to become more knowledgeable about Judaism and history. He took part in the March of the Living 17 times and volunteers at the Washington Holocaust Museum. He feels the burden of living so long but takes solace in his family. Along with his wife, he has 3 daughters and has 9 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.
Reflecting on the events of 10-7, he added these meaningful thoughts to his usual message:
- Israel must remain strong-we cannot let the horror of Hamas defeat us.
- We must fight Holocaust denial and the use of the word apartheid.
- We must fight for Israel’s reputation.
- 10-7 was an attack not only on Israel but on democracy and western culture.
- We are collectively one people.
- The diaspora must send money and our youth should go join the fight.
- Jews have stood up for the human rights of gays and blacks-now is our turn for support.
- We must stand up to be free: Am Israel Chai!