I arrived in Budapest yesterday morning and spent the day wandering through the city. My hotel happens to be in the Jewish quarter, just a few steps away from the synagogue, which I will visit this afternoon, just before Shabbat.
My people suffered terribly in this country and city during the second world war, especially towards the end of the war. It feels fitting to me that this week‘s Torah portion includes the Shema, which I imagine was on the lips of many of these people when they died.
Some years ago I became acquainted with a Hungarian Holocaust survivor named Imre Hecht, z’l. He told me of surviving a Nazi death march, emerging into a tiny town after starving in the woods, walking into the square, and finding volunteers from the Joint Distribution Committee there, who gave him both soup and shoes. He never forgot their kindness and support, and was fortunate later in life to become wealthy enough to be a major supporter.
One morning he showed me a photograph and told me that it was taken of his family just before the war. They were 90 people, all first-degree relatives. He told me that not one outside of himself survived the Holocaust.
As I walk through the streets of this lovely city with its tortured past, I keep seeing that photo in my mind’s eye — 90 people posed stiffly near a massive tree, gathered one bright afternoon for an enormous family portrait before a picnic. On Shabbat in services when we say the Mourner’s Kaddish I usually say “may their memories be for a blessing” but in their case, as with so many others, there is no one left who remembers. And so tonight instead I will say “may their souls be a blessing.”
SRQ Jew said:
Judy — not sure if I can access your email. Mine is RabbiJennifer.KH@gmail.com
Judy Weiss said:
Hello, Rabbi Singer. I would love to tell you about the wonderful legacy that Imre Hecht and his wife Vera, both deceased in 2008, left to many organizations in the U.S., where they settled after the war. There are many, many people who have benefited from the Hechts’ generosity and honor their memory. I hope you can access my email address from the “fill in your details” box and that you’ll contact me off-line! Many thanks, Judy Weiss, NYC
SRQ Jew said:
Judy, I’d love to hear from you. I was an endowment professional when I knew the Hechts and helped them create several gifts here in Sarasota.
Susan Jackson Weirauch said:
Beautifully expressed. May their souls be a blessing, indeed. ❤