In “The View from Pew: Where Do We Go from Here?” (winter 2021), Rabbi Avraham Edelstein perceptively writes that “the teshuvah movement has been remarkably successful in . . . building Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Cincinnati and many other thriving Torah communities that started out virtually from scratch.”
Cincinnati (where I lived for six years), unlike Houston, Dallas and Atlanta, can in no way be seen as having been built as a result of the teshuvah movement. The proportion of first- and second-generation ba’alei teshuvah in Cincinnati has always been, and remains, far lower than in the other cities mentioned. The growth of a Torah community in this city can be ascribed to great, dedicated rabbanim and, in the last quarter-century, to the success of its community kollel, which attracted young frum families to an improved job market—something Cincinnati certainly has in common with the other three cities mentioned in the piece.
Correcting with Dignity
I found Mr. David Olivestone’s “Inside the Mind of the Gabbai” (winter 2021) to be a beautiful and balanced account of the life of a gabbai. As for correcting ba’alei keriah, I recall an incident that took place at my former shul in Golders Green, England. The tochachah was being leined in shul and a word was pronounced incorrectly. Immediately, our eldest ba’al korei, sitting alongside the bimah, called out the correction—but in a whisper.
The Paucity of Jewish Stars
I read with interest Dr. Rafael Medoff’s moving account of the effort to provide a Star of David marker to American Jewish men who died in combat during World War II and are buried abroad with a cross on their graves (“Finally, a Star of David for Jewish Heroes” [fall 2021]).
The author theorizes about why so few Jewish Stars of David can be seen in American cemeteries abroad, but does not cover one of the reasons why this likely occurred.
In 1947, the US government repatriated the bodies of those fallen soldiers whose families requested their return. As Rick Atkinson writes in The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945:
In 1947, the next of kin of 270,000 identifiable American dead buried overseas would submit Quartermaster General Form 345 to choose whether they wanted their soldier brought back to the United States or left interred with comrades abroad. More than 60 percent of the dead worldwide would return home . . . an unprecedented repatriation that only an affluent, victorious nation could afford (Epilogue, p. 638).
I would think that many of the bereaved American Jewish families opted for this repatriation option, explaining, in part, the paucity of Stars of David in American military cemeteries abroad.
One such repatriated American Jewish soldier who lost his life fighting the Nazis is buried near our family plot in Cedar Park Cemetery in Paramus, New Jersey. The inscription on his footstone reads, “Poh nikbar Chaim ben Henech (in Hebrew); Herbert Freibaum, died in action, France—August 7, 1944. Age 19 years. Not forgotten.”
Teaneck, New Jersey
Giving Full Credit
I read with great interest Toby Klein Greenwald’s review of Kalman Samuels’ Dreams Never Dreamed (fall 2021), the gripping and thrilling memoir of Kalman and Malki Samuels, founders of Shalva, the Israel Association for the Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities. I cannot recommend the book more.
There was, however, one factual inaccuracy I would like to mention out of a sense of kibbud av va’eim. Greenwald mistakenly writes that Shalva started in the Samuels’ Har Nof apartment. While most admirably, and somewhat incredulously, a few years later the Samuels in fact did evict themselves from their apartment to double Shalva’s space, the book states that Shalva started in the apartment next door to theirs (p. 157). What is not mentioned is which neighbor’s apartment it was—namely, that of my parents, Rabbi Hillel and Elaine Goldberg.
Renting a brand-new apartment to an organization for kids was a revolutionary concept thirty years ago. Although desirous of helping kids with disabilities, my parents were understandably hesitant due to the inevitable extra wear and tear. Even a number of years later, as Rabbi Kalman notes in the book (p. 189), Shalva could not find any additional apartments into which to expand due to people’s unwillingness to rent out space for children with disabilities.
My parents did not know the Samuels at the time since they were living overseas. In response to their hesitancy, Rabbi Kalman enlisted the help of the Bostoner Rebbe, zt”l, and his son; Rabbi Kalman and my father were both close to the Rebbe’s son. The Rebbe reassured my parents of the Samuels’ yashrus, that they would uphold their commitment to leave the apartment the way it was found, and encouraged them to go ahead with it. My parents agreed, and Shalva was born. And what a zechus it was!
Toby Klein Greenwald Responds
Dear Mr. Goldberg,
Thank you for writing. In my original draft, I wrote this:
“In June, 1990, Shalva opened its doors to six children as an afternoon program in an apartment next to [the Samuels] in the Har Nof neighborhood. It expanded and expanded, and this book is the story of all the love, heartbreak, roadblocks, perseverance and miracles that led to the magnificent center it occupies in Jerusalem today.”
I’m sorry that in the editing process a change was made, but thank you for giving appropriate credit to your parents, whose chesed certainly contributed significantly to the dawn of Shalva, and for sharing with us the behind-the-scenes story of the involvement of the Bostoner Rebbe.