Tag Archives: Auschwitz

Jews of the Week: Aura Herzog and Tova Berlinski

In Memory of Two Great Israeli Women

Aura Ambache (1924-2022) was born in Egypt to a Jewish family of Russian and Polish heritage, that had been expelled from Yafo by the Turks before World War I. Ambache went to French schools in Egypt before heading to South Africa for university studies in math and physics. The family moved back to Israel in 1946 and Ambache joined the Jewish Agency. The following year, she married Chaim Herzog, who would go on to become Israel’s sixth president. Both husband and wife fought in the War of Independence, with Mrs. Herzog serving as an intelligence officer with Unit 8200. She was seriously injured during an attack on the Jewish Agency building. In 1958, she helped organize the first Chidon Tanach, the International Bible Contest, and between 1959 and 1968 was the head of Israel’s Department of Culture. The following year, she founded the Council for a Beautiful Israel, an NGO which works to preserve the environment of the Holy Land and boost the standard of living in the country. Herzog also wrote a book called Secrets of Hospitality. Between 1983 and 1993, she was Israel’s First Lady. Sadly, Herzog passed away last week. Her son Isaac Herzog is the current President of Israel, while son Michael Herzog is Israel’s ambassador to the US.

Tova Gusta Wolf (1915-2022) was born in Oswiecim (Auschwitz), Poland to a Hasidic family, the oldest of six children. She was very active in the Beitar Zionist youth movement and during this time met her husband Eliyahu Berlinski. The young couple decided to make aliyah together in 1938, as soon as they married. (They had to sneak in past British authorities who had then restricted Jewish immigration to the Holy Land.) This prescient move saved their lives. Back in Poland, Tova’s entirely family (except for one sister) would perish in the Holocaust. While originally interested in acting and theatre, the loss of her family inspired her to grieve through painting. Berlinski went on to study at the renowned Bezalel Academy of Arts in Jerusalem, and spent time learning with the abstract expressionists in Paris. She won the Jerusalem Prize in 1963 and became one of Israel’s most famous painters. She has been described as the artist who “painted the pain of Auschwitz”. In 2000, she received the Mordechai Ish-Shalom Award for Lifetime Achievement. Sadly, Berlinski passed away earlier this week, aged 106. She had been painting until her last days.

Words of the Week

We need leaders not in love with money but in love with justice. Not in love with publicity but in love with humanity.
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Jews of the Week: Sherbatov and Hyman

Two Inspiring Pro Hockey Players

Eliezer “Eli” Sherbatov

Eliezer Sherbatov (b. 1991) was born in Rehovot, Israel to Jewish-Russian immigrants, and moved with his family to Quebec as a child. His father was a big fan of the Montreal Canadians hockey team, and Sherbatov grew up playing lots of hockey. At just 13, he returned to Israel to join the HC Metulla hockey team. He represented Israel at the 2005 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, becoming the youngest player in tournament history. A serious rollerblading injury nearly ended his career, and kept him off the ice for over two years. He eventually returned to Montreal for junior training camp, then headed to France to play in the Magnus League, where he was one of the top scorers. He has since played for a number of European teams, and was the first Israeli to play in the KHL. More recently, he played for Poland’s Oswiecim (ie. Auschwitz) of which he said: “I have a great deal of motivation because it is Auschwitz. I want to win the championship, the Polish Cup and the continental title, and then everyone will know the one who did this is a Jewish-Israeli.” Sherbatov has been most successful on the international stage, captaining Israel’s little-known hockey team to multiple victories. At the 2011 IIHF World Championships, Sherbatov stunned fans with a highlight-reel goal that ended up being ranked as the fourth greatest hockey goal of all time. In 2019, he led Israel’s team to its first gold medal at the IIHF World Championship (Division II). He was the tournament’s top scorer, and named “Best Forward”. Sherbatov currently plays for HC Mariupol in the Ukrainian Hockey League.

Zach Hyman (Credit: Michael Miller)

Zachary Martin Hyman (b. 1992) was born in Toronto, Canada. His father is the chairman of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, and Hyman grew up immersed in hockey, together with his four brothers. He went to Jewish day school and graduated from Toronto’s Jewish high school, CHAT. Meanwhile, Hyman played for the Hamilton Red Wings junior team and became its captain and leading scorer. He was soon awarded junior Player of the Year by Hockey Canada, and the OJHL’s Most Gentlemanly Player. Hyman went to the University of Michigan on an athletic scholarship, and by his senior year was the team’s top scorer. A serious student, too, he graduated with a Distinguished Scholar Award. Hyman was drafted to the NHL by the Florida Panthers in 2010, but ended up playing for his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. In his first year, he set records for most shorthanded goals by a rookie and most consecutive games with an assist. He went on to play on the Leafs’ top line, and was an alternate captain. Aside from hockey, Hyman is a bestselling author of children’s books, and is currently working on his fourth book. He has also been praised for his extensive charity work. When the new NHL season begins next week, Hyman will suit up for the Edmonton Oilers, with whom he signed a 7-year, $38.5 million contract.

Words of the Week

Jews do not accept the world that is. They challenge it in the name of the world that ought to be.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Jew of the Week: Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe

Miracles in the Holocaust

Yekutiel Yehudah Halberstam (1905-1994) was born to a Hasidic family of the Sanz dynasty in the small Jewish town of Rudnik, Poland. At just 14, he lost his father, and replaced him as the town rabbi. At the age of 21, he was invited to become the rabbi of Klausenberg (then part of Hungary), and head its yeshiva. During the Holocaust, his entire family was sent to Auschwitz, and Rabbi Halberstam tragically lost his wife and 11 children. Nonetheless, he did not lose faith and continued to serve as an inspirational leader for the Jews in the camps. During a 1944 death march that took place on Tisha b’Av, the Rebbe recited the traditional Kinot as the Nazis tortured the Jews. Since it was Tisha b’Av, the Jews took off their leather shoes, so the Nazis used the opportunity to make the Jews march on broken glass. They then left them to die of thirst in the summer heat. As reported by several survivors, the Rebbe asked everyone to start digging in the earth. When they did so, water miraculously emerged out of the soil. The Jews were saved, and the bewildered Nazis left them alone. The Rebbe then said: “Here we have proof that despite all the troubles and the apparent concealment of God’s face, the Holy, Blessed One still loves us.” Another time, Rabbi Halberstam was shot in the arm by a Nazi and left to bleed to death. He wrapped a leaf around the wound and made a vow that if he survived, he would dedicate the rest of his life to saving the lives of others. The Rebbe survived. First, he stayed at the DP camps to run soup kitchens and care for the countless orphans. He established and headed the She’erit haPletah (“Surviving Remnant”) organization, which built mikvehs, set up Jewish schools, organized chuppas, and raised money for the victims. During this time, he met General (and future US president) Dwight Eisenhower, who was inspired by the “wonder rabbi”. Rabbi Halberstam then moved to New York, got remarried, and had seven more children. In 1960, he made aliyah and settled in Netanya. The Rebbe opened both a Hasidic-Ashkenazi yeshiva, and a Sephardic yeshiva, established the town of Kiryat Sanz and, to fulfill his Holocaust vow, founded the Sanz Medical Center/Ladiano Hospital. Today, the hospital serves half a million people, runs strictly according to Jewish law, and has the distinction of being the only hospital in Israel that has never closed—not even for a worker’s strike. Famous for his deep love and concern for every Jew, Rabbi Halberstam was beloved by everyone who knew him, secular and religious, Ashkenazi and Sephardi. His two sons continue to lead the Sanz-Klausenberg communities in New York and Netanya.

Tisha b’Av Begins this Saturday Night

Words of the Week

I promised myself that if, with God’s help, I got well and got out of there, from those evil people, I would build a hospital in Eretz Yisrael where every human being would be cared for with dignity. And the basis of that hospital would be that the doctors and nurses would believe that there is a God in this world and that when they treat a patient, they are fulfilling the greatest mitzvah in the Torah.
Rabbi Yekutiel Yehudah Halberstam, the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe