Sunday, June 29, 2008

Rabbi wants to help town restore its Jewish past

"I made this print from a glass plate found by my father-in-law. In his opinion this is a family from either Szczekociny or Jedrzejw. I also think that they could be from Lelw." Henryk Sowihski, Lodi (Link)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

When Rabbi Menachem Bornstein visited his birthplace in Poland four years ago, the Holocaust survivor felt "sick and upset" at what he saw.
A shopping center was inside the synagogue where he once worshipped. Rest rooms sat in the Jewish cemetery where his grandparents were buried. Headstones had been stolen from the cemetery and used as sidewalk paving. The remains of thousands of Jews had been disturbed.
The Harrisburg man looked around his beloved village of Szczekociny and vowed to restore its Jewish past.
On Sunday, he will keep part of his vow when he visits that village, lights candles, lays stones and unveils a plaque. He will help break ground for a Holocaust monument.
A festival will feature "The Spirit of the Survivor," a short film on his life made by Sean Foer, a Mechanicsburg Area High School sophomore.

Bornstein said that restoring his village requires determination, diplomacy and money.
"I felt sick and upset when I saw Szczekociny after all those years," Bornstein said.
After seeing the desecration in 2004, Bornstein and his family gathered up fragments of gravestones, visited the mayor and told him that the city was morally obligated to protect them because the cemetery and synagogue are holy places.
The mayor replied that he couldn't help because the property had been sold. The Bornstein family wrote to the president of Poland and the World Jewish Congress. Finally, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said that Szczekociny "belongs to the Jewish community," Bornstein said.

Bornstein, his family and friends worked with Jewish organizations and the Israeli and Polish governments to build a monument and museum to the memory of the Jews of Szczekociny.
Supporters in the village saw to fencing in the cemetery, resetting gravestones and restoring the names.
Meanwhile Foer, a member of Temple Beth Shalom, made a documentary about Bornstein's life. Foer became so interested in Szczekociny that he visited there last November and is helping raise funds for construction of the Holocaust monument.
"The monument will look like the Ten Commandments," he said. "Part of it will be made of bits of gravestones that citizens hid from the government."
Bornstein said that $10,000 has been raised for the $34,000 monument.
The rabbi called his life a series of miracles. The son of an Orthodox rabbi, he was a teenager when he was sent to Plaszow-Gulag I concentration camp at Krakow in 1939.
He survived 12-hour workdays building train stations near the Plaszow-Gulag I in Poland. He stood on the edge of a deep pit as a Nazi soldier used a machine gun to riddle prisoners with bullets.
"I don't know how, but none of the bullets touched me," Bornstein said. "I got out of the pit with blood of others on me. The commandant said that if I could survive this, I should have a day off, then go back to work. That's what I did."
Bornstein, whose left forearm is tattooed B-94, was liberated after six years of torture. His parents, two brothers, four sisters and other relatives all died in the Holocaust. He weighed 62 pounds and nearly died during rehabilitation. After he gained strength, he went to Italy, then to Israel, where he spent the next 22 years in the Israeli Army.
"I have an obligation to those who came before me and those who will come after me so we may never, ever forget," Bornstein said. (Source)

MARY KLAUS: 255-8113 or
To contribute to the Holocaust monument in Poland: Checks may be sent to The Ameri- can Friends of Kedumim (write Yad Levehava in memo), care of Rabbi Menachem Bornstein, 3125 Green St., Harrisburg, PA 17110.

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