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Jerusalem Netletter: Yom Hashoah

Barbara Sofer

Sirens sounded at 10 AM in Israel. The State of Israel stood still for two minutes of silent devotion marking Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. True, this day honors the memory of the 6 Million, but it also honors the survivors, 199,000 of whom live in Israel. There are emotional public ceremonies, two days of TV and radio programs devoted to the Shoah, and numerous community gatherings. 

Shira Hadasha, the congregation I belong to in Jerusalem, always hosts a survivor to tell his or her personal story. Last night we heard Professor Miriam Gillis-Carlebach. One of nine children of Charlotte Preuss Carlebach and Rabbi Yosef Zvi Carlebach, the last Rabbi of Hamburg, she insisted on going to pre-State Israel in 1938. There was a problem with her papers, and in the end, she arrived in Jaffa with only a three-month tourist visa. All the other young people left the boat, but she was stopped by a British official. Where was she to return to when the visa expired? Her passport said "never could return to Germany." Suddenly, Hans Beyt, Henrietta Szold's secretary appeared. Money was exchanged, and Miriam was allowed to leave the ship. The break from her family was hard. She never received any letters. "I worked with the cows and chickens in the Youth Aliyah Village, and that helped," she said. Beyt came to their village and he looked for her to see how she was doing. "I greatly esteemed him," said Carlebach. Then came a day she would never forget. "Miss Szold was visiting. I was chosen to address her. It was my first ever speech in Hebrew. I was so nervous and excited. I burst out, "You are our Mother."

Miriam never again saw her biological mother or her father again. Her parents and three of her sisters were executed in a forest near Riga in 1942. Miriam grew up to be an expert in special education and an author. She heads the Carlebach Institute at Bar Ilan University. One of her cousins is the late song-writing
Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach.

She and her late husband had four children. Over 70 of their grandchildren and greatgrandchildren joined her recently for Pesach Seder. Thank you Youth Aliyah. Thank you Hadassah.

Wishing you Shabbat Shalom from a somber Jerusalem, Barbara

Date: 4/19/2012
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