Tag Archives: Belgium

Jew of the Week: Yitta Schwartz

The Woman With 2000 Children

A rare photo of Yitta Schwartz from the 1980s

A rare photo of Yitta Schwartz from the 1980s

Yitta Schwartz (1916-2010) was born in Kalev, Hungary to a Chassidic family. During the Holocaust, her entire family was taken to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where two of her six children died. A strong and pious woman, Schwartz persevered, and took care of many other people in the camp, often at great personal risk. One Holocaust survivor recalls how Schwartz took care of the deceased, carefully cleaning their bodies, digging graves, and burying them. Following the war, Schwartz’s family started to rebuild in Belgium, and helped countless refugees in the process, giving them shelter in their own tiny apartment. In 1953, the family (now with 11 children) moved to the US, where Schwartz had 5 more kids. Schwartz’s husband sold furniture, while she took care of their 16 children, and then the many grandchildren that followed. By the time of her passing at the age of 93, Schwartz had over 200 grandchildren, many more great-grandchildren, and nearly 2000 descendants altogether. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of her time was spent going from one family event to the next. When arriving at these gatherings, people would say she resembled the Prophet Elijah, her presence filling the room with light, and everyone clambering for a bit of the great matriarch’s attention and blessings. A very modest woman, she avoided being photographed or filmed. She is remembered as having an infectious smile, a thirst for life, and an excellent memory. Knowing that she would always live on in the doting hearts of her descents, she once said, “If you leave a child or grandchild, you live forever.”

Words of the Week

So said God: ‘Let a wise man not glory in his wisdom, nor let the strong one glory in his strength, nor let the wealthy glory in his wealth. Only in this may one glorify himself: in discerning and knowing Me, for I am God, Who performs kindness, justice, and righteousness – for these are what I desire…’
– Jeremiah 9:22-23

Jew of the Week: Robert Adler

Robert Adler & the TV Remote

Robert Adler & the TV Remote

Robert Adler (1913-2007) was born in Vienna where he received a Ph.D in physics. At the start of World War II, Adler fled to Belgium, then England, and finally to the US. He soon found a job working at Zenith Electronics, developing military technologies to support the war effort. After the war, Adler turned his attention to television. His first major breakthrough was the gated-beam tube, a revolutionary new type of vacuum tube that significantly reduced both TV costs and signal interference. Meanwhile, a fellow worker at Zenith, Eugene Polley, developed the first (wireless) TV remote control. However, this remote used flashes of light, and could therefore be triggered by sunlight. The company searched for a better solution, and one that required no batteries. Adler came up with a remote that used sound instead of light, and this became the standard for remote controls for the next 25 years (until replaced by infrared remotes that are common today – and unfortunately require batteries). Aside from the remote, Adler owned roughly 180 patents, including early forms of videodiscs and novel laser technologies. He filed his last patent (for improved touch-screen technology) at age 93! Working at Zenith for 41 years (and an additional 15 years as an adviser), he became the company’s vice-president and director of research. For his work, Adler received the coveted Edison Medal, as well as an Emmy Award.

Words of the Week

The people of Israel did not believe in Moses because of the miracles he performed. So why did they believe in him? Because when we stood at Sinai, our own eyes saw and our own ears heard the fire, the sounds and the flames, and how Moses approached the cloud and God’s voice called to him…
Maimonides

Jew of the Week: Sami Rohr

Sami Rohr, Top Philanthropist

Shmuel Rohr (1926-2012) was born to an Orthodox family in Berlin, a diligent student of Torah even during the Holocaust while fleeing to Belgium, then France, and finally to Switzerland. Fearing another war in Cold War Europe, Rohr’s father sent him to Colombia. Over the next 25 years, Rohr applied his famous intellect to business, eventually building nearly half of Colombia’s capital city, Bogota. Throughout, he maintained his devotion to Torah, especially the mitzvah of charity. He would go on to donate over $250 million to Jewish causes over his lifetime, including developing a young State of Israel, and reinvigorating Jewish life in the former Soviet Union. After an encounter with Chabad rabbis, Rohr started to donate generously to the organization, eventually bankrolling the salaries of over 500 Chabad rabbi-emissaries around the world. Rohr established a global project to preserve Yiddish literature, and his children set up the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, one of the richest literary prizes in the world. Rohr also developed a unique system of philanthropy that is used by wealthy people worldwide. Humble and modest, Rohr often donated anonymously, and never requested his name on any of the institutions or buildings he funded, which is probably why most people have never heard of him. It is therefore said that no one really knows the true extent of his charity work. Sadly, Rohr passed away last week at age 86.

 

 

Words of the Week

The righteous promise little and do a lot; the wicked promise much and don’t do even a little.
– Talmud, Bava Metzia 87a