Unbroken Faith: American Jewish Families Who Defied the Odds

As Told To Bayla Sheva Brenner

Many assume Torah Judaism came to these shores in the aftermath of the Holocaust. This is not only historically false, but it overlooks the extraordinary mesirut nefesh and devotion to Torah exhibited by hundreds of men and women who stubbornly and courageously fought to lay the foundation of Torah Judaism in America.

In the pages ahead, we profile a few of the illustrious families whose loyalty to Torah Judaism enabled them to pass on Yiddishkeit to future generations, despite the fact that they lived in a time when there were few, if any, yeshivot or day schools, when kosher food was not as readily available and when the contemporary conveniences of Orthodox life were but a dream. These men and women had, in the words of one of the interviewees, “backbones made of iron rods.” Indeed, their sacrifices paved the path for future generations, and enabled Orthodoxy in America to thrive and flourish.

Please note that the following stories are oral accounts, based on people’s memories. As such, we cannot vouch for the accuracy of the various details. For the sake of authenticity, transliterations follow both the Sephardic and Ashkenazic pronunciations, depending on the particular interviewee.

Additionally, please note that the names depicted in the family tree diagrams are only those mentioned and/or relevant to the narrative. Due to space constraints, these family trees are NOT comprehensive.

Follow the links below to read the different family accounts:

The Bienenfeld Family

The Hartman Family

The Scheinerman Family

The Fertig Family

The Bruder Family

The Cohn Family

The Siegel Family

Bayla Sheva Brenner is a senior writer in the OU Communications and Marketing Department.

This article was featured in the Spring 2016 issue of Jewish Action.
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