Sharing Memorable Stories
Remembering the Shoah
Recently, we honored those who perished during the Holocaust. Suzanne Glantz, Heritage Pointe Resident and Holocaust Survivor from France, lead a women's discussion group reflecting on the childhood friendship of Elie Wiesel and the Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, known to Wiesel as Leluk.
Suzanne retells the relationship formed between the two men, as described in the foreword written by
Elie Wiesel for Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau's book, Out of the Depths.
"A cry of despair? An act of Faith? A heartrending echo of the Akedah, the eternal blight to which our people
seem to have been subjected since the time of Abraham and his son?
This story, told by a child who became the Chief Rabbi of Israel, is all that - and much more.
Our paths crossed more than once. We were in Buchenwald together. We lived through its liberation together.
We came to France together, with a group of four hundred young boys, led with unstinting devotion by the magnificent Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants (Society for Rescuing Children). Lulek was the youngest - I would say
the smallest among us.
But it was he who recalled our first true encounter. We had come - he from Tel Aviv and I from New York - to participate in the annual ceremony of the March of the Living fro the Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day)
at Birkenau. In introducing me to a gathering of more than ten thousand people, recalled that particular event.
In May of 1945, he had just learned - from his brother Naphtali - of the death of their mother. And it was you,
said Lulek, the future Chief Rabbi of Israel, who taught me to recite the Kaddish."
To learn more about this wonderful story go to amazonsmile.org and register Heritage Pointe!
- Elie Wiesel Z"L
Written by Justin Muchnick
The nicest pair of shoes I ever owned came from Ziggy. I was thirteen, I’d just had my Bar Mitzvah, and Ziggy had been at the service to watch me read from the Torah. I came down to Heritage Pointe a few days after the ceremony to visit Ziggy. We were talking about the Bar Mitzvah, I asked him if he enjoyed it, and he said he loved it all except for one thing.
I said, “Oh, what was that?” and he said, “Well, those shoes you were wearing, they really didn’t fit!”
And I said, “Yeah, I guess you’re right”; in all of the rushing around to prepare for the Bar Mitzvah we’d forgotten to get me a new pair of dress shoes, so I wore these clunky hand-me-down loafers from my dad.
Ziggy said, “Hold on a minute.” And he went to his closet and came back with this beautiful, black leather pair of Bally loafers. He’d gotten them in Germany or Austria after the war and—being Ziggy—he’d taken care to keep them in pristine shape for sixty-something years. He told me to try them on, and I can still remember the proud smile on his face when we discovered that they fit perfectly.
It would be perhaps hackneyed, but certainly true, for me to say that, years after my feet have outgrown those Bally loafers, I am still striving to follow in the figurative footsteps of Ziggy Silbert. I’ve been blessed to have been Ziggy’s friend for the last seven years, and we spent literally many hundreds of hours conversing with one another—usually with him sitting in his no-frills black swivel chair and insisting that I sit in his cushioned desk chair beside him. Through our friendship, Ziggy has shaped the way I look at the world and taught me what it means to lead a meaningful life. And, yes, he’s done that with his descriptions of the Siberian prison camp he escaped from, with the photocopy he showed me of his uncle’s death certificate from Auschwitz, with the story he told me of using his tefillin to tie himself into a tree in the Carpathian foothills when the Gestapo raided his village. But he’s also done that with the glimmer in his eye as he explained how, as a boy, he took the wood of another tree in that very same forest, carved it, sanded it, and varnished it to make the very best pair of snow skis in the town of Jaćmierz.
More than anyone I’ve known, Ziggy truly understood the beautiful happiness of the simple things in life. Earlier this summer, Ziggy and I went to hear a visiting lecturer at Heritage Pointe. Ziggy wasn’t feeling too well and hadn’t gotten out of his room very much lately, but I knew he would like this lecture. It was about Gustav Klimt, and as the lecturer clicked from one slide to the next, I couldn’t help but turn and watch Ziggy watching Klimt’s vibrant, gold-leafed canvases appear one after another on the screen. I asked Ziggy afterward whether he liked the presentation and he turned to me and said, “Justin, I loved the colors. They were wonderful.”
And I’ve never had more fulfilling intellectual conversations than the ones I’ve had with Ziggy. Oftentimes it was him teaching me about Maimonides or Spinoza, or me offering an interpretation on an ancient Roman quote he asked about, but Ziggy would usually sprinkle in some of his own homespun philosophy, too. “Ziggy’s philosophy,” he’d call it, referring to himself in the third person, and it was all culled from his life experience—and, boy, what a life.
His favorite piece of “Ziggy’s philosophy,” the one he repeated the most, was that “circumstances are stronger than human nature.” But this aphorism of his was always the one I had the toughest time grappling with. I always felt that it was ironic to hear Ziggy saying that “circumstances are stronger than human nature,” because, to me, Ziggy’s life represents the ultimate triumph of the human spirit over the harshest imaginable circumstances. Throughout his life, Ziggy faced circumstances that would have broken the strongest of men, but he was able to maintain a sense of self that, I think, embodies the very best of human nature. Ziggy was a man who was an unabating font of wisdom and kindness, who celebrated my successes and suffered my failures as though they were his own, and who gave far more than anyone could possibly hope to receive.
But, Ziggy, if you were right and if circumstances are indeed stronger than human nature, then I am ineffably grateful that our circumstances allowed us to meet. I am grateful to have been your peer, your friend, your family, grateful to have grown up by your side. I am grateful to have been separated from you by seventy-five years and nothing else. I am grateful, Ziggy, for you. I love you.
Ziggy in his younger years
Ziggy, age 94 celebrating his one and
only birthday party
Dramatic Reading by Heritage Pointe Resident, Gloria Borher
Gloria Borher has been presenting dramatic readings for well over 50 years. We invite you to listen as Gloria retells the story of WWII Veteran, Pete Pryor's D-Day mission through a letter to Pete's daughter, Ellie on the anniversary of the landing of the Western Allied Forces on the coast of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944.
The Normandy Invasion was the supreme joint effort of the Western Allies in Europe in World War II and remains today one of the best known campaigns of the war. Click here to watch the video.