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My Father, My Mother, My Rebbi

Riki Goldstein

Rav Michoel Ber Weissmandl is best known for his efforts to save Jews during the Holocaust, but his work after the war was no less heroic. From his yeshivah in Mount Kisco, Reb Michoel Ber served as a mentor and father figure to war orphans and Americans alike, raising them as if they were his own.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

In Adar/February of 1955, a small group of family members and yeshivah bochurim sat at a simple seudas bris in Mount Kisco, New York. The father of the boy stood up to speak. He was highly emotional, the joy and gratitude mixed with an intense longing, a sense of loss that could never fade. It was the bris of his fifth son born postwar. A powerful orator, the man wound down his intricate Torah thoughts with the following prayer for the new baby and his siblings: “Nekadeish es Shimcha ba’olam k’sheim shemakdishim oso bishmei marom — may my five children sanctify Your Name in this world just as my five children whom the Nazis murdered are sanctifying It in the Heavens.” The man was Rav Michoel Ber Weissmandl — broken by anguished suffering yet whole enough to establish not only a new family but an entire community. The churban was always before his eyes, yet he possessed enough strength to rebuild. Reb Michoel Ber is primarily known for his hatzalah work during the throes of war, but his postwar labors for Klal Yisrael were no less heroic. The yeshivah that flourished under his leadership still stands, and the talmidim he nurtured still revere him for the boundless energies he poured into them. Rabbi Yaakov Spitzer of Boro Park, a close talmid of Rav Weissmandl, explains that his rebbi, who died 58 years ago this week, was on a mission to resurrect. “Reb Michoel Ber didn’t want a ‘Holocaust memorial.’ He wanted a live perpetuation. Not of how the parents died, but of how they lived and learned. He wanted to restore the glory of the Torah of Nitra, of the yeshivos, of the rabbanim, of the erliche balabatim. Today the young orphans he cared for have great-grandchildren, beautiful families, and sometimes expansive businesses, and all are erlich, thanks to his guidance.”

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