Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A chance meeting in Wyoming leads to some interesting "Reunions"!

I had some interesting news this past week!

Several months ago, I submitted the following (excerpted) letter to HaModia magazine:

To the Editor,

I have been enjoying your newspaper for a few months, and look forward to receiving it every Wednesday – I don’t know where people have the time to read even that whole issue, let alone the daily!

Your feature, “A World That Was”, is particularly intriguing to me, and I think you might be interested in this story, and help get these pictures into the rightful hands.

Several years ago, when I was a Rav in Portland, OR, I drove cross-country several times with my family so that my kids could spend their summers in “the Mountains” in New York (Of course, after driving through the Cascades, Sierra Nevada, and the Rockies I found that term laughable, but I digress).   After spending a few glorious days in Yellowstone National Park we headed east, and stayed overnight in Cody, Wyoming (a town named after Buffalo Bill, whose image is everywhere there).  I was on line at a supermarket when a man approached me and asked in a deep Texas drawl, “Are you a Rabbi”?   Somewhat disturbed that I was being drawn out of vacation mode, I replied in the affirmative.  After some “chit-chat”, he told me that he had been looking for a Rabbi for years.  Half a century earlier, young Max Krueger was a soldier in the American Army, and had been stationed in Shanghai China after the war.  Among his duties was taking photographs for potential immigrants to America and, you guessed it, among the applicants were a bunch of Rabbis who seemed oddly out of place in that city. 

Nevertheless, Mr. Krueger went about his business and took the photographs, which presumably led to US Visas, Passports, and lives lived happily thereafter.  Finding the subjects interesting, he retained copies of some of these photos, and reckoned that some Rabbi might come along some day who would also find them intersesting.   We exchanged information and our goodbyes, and some time later I received an envelope with a minyan of photos of young scholars, presumably Talmidim of the Mir Yeshiva in Shanghai.

If anyone knows who theses individuals are, I would be happy to send them along to them or their families.

Thank you

Yehuda L. Oppenheimer

As it turns out, this article has spurred quite a bit of interest.   I received many phone calls and emails, trying to help me identify  the young Talmidim in the photos.

The first caller pointed out that they were probably Lubavitcher Talmidim, as the Mir Talmidim all were clean shaven (at least while in Shanghai).

Subsequently, I received many other messages, and virtually all the pictures have been identified, as all Lubavitch Talmidim in Shanghai.   

I knew before this that there were many, many more Jews besides the Talmidim of Mir Yeshiva who had been miraculously saved from the Churban in Shanghai, 23,000 by one count .  A huge portion of them were afforded this opportunity by the heroism of the Japanese consul in Vilna, Chiune Sugihara , true member of the  חסידי אומות העולם (Righteous Gentiles), who sacrificed his career and even life to save over 6,000 Jews.   What I assumed was unique about the Mir Tamidim is that almost a whole Yeshiva survived together there, the only such Yeshiva in Europe.

Turns out that a large group of Lubavitch Talmidim, between 50 and 100, were Baruch Hashem saved there as well, and that apparently all of the pictures were of these Talmidim.

I am in touch with Dovid Zalikowski of the Chabad Lubavitch Archives who has taken great interest in this, as well as other family members, and they have tentatively identified the pictures as:
R. Moshe Rubin
R. Shmuel Moshe Lederhandler
R. Chaim Ber Gulevsky
R. Yechezkel Deren
R. Leibish Probst
R. Mottel Bryski
R. Yosef Borenstein
R. Avraham Tzvi Landa
R. Gershon Chanowitz
R. Moshe feder or R. Hirshel Rubin

We are still working out possible other claims as well.

I am so grateful this is happening.  I had these pictures sitting in my drawer for years, but I had no idea how to publicize them, until I recently started receiving HaModia, and realized that their "A World That Was" feature was a perfect vehicle.

Unforrtunately, it appears that Mr. Krueger passed away . . .I wish that I could have let him know of the results of our "chance" meeting long ago.

1 comment:

MiMedinat HaYam said...

Rav Chaim Ber gulevsky was not a lubavitcher, but a stereotypical litvak. See Marc Shapiro's discussion. http://seforim.blogspot.com/2009/09/writings-of-r-hayyim-dov-ber-gulevsky.html?m=1