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My Yizkor Letter...

Thursday, 13 September, 2018 - 11:24 pm

My Yizkor Letter…

Dear Friends,

In honor of Yom Kippur, a day of introspection and Yizkor, I’ve chosen to write a heartfelt letter to my maternal great-grandparents, Shmuel Zanvil and Menucha Kraindel Goldman, who together with six of their children were murdered by the Nazis Yemach Shemom, leaving my Zayde, Reb Shimon, as a sole survivor, the only remaining branch on what was a beautiful family tree. I hope this helps you in your Yom Kippur experience.


Rabbi Chaim Bruk

Dear Elter Zayde & Elter Bubbe,

I am writing to you almost eighty years after your lives were snuffed out by the Nazis Yemach Shemom. You, along with six of your beautiful children, Chana, Leah, Tzvi Hirsh, Chaim, Yakov and Yosef, were murdered in cold blood, because fellow human beings believed that you were inferior and not worthy of the oxygen you breathed. You never merited meeting any of your grandchildren, you never had the opportunity to see the amazing family your one surviving son Shimon created together with his beloved Esther, and you wouldn’t believe how the Gur Chassidic dynasty, whose founder was your family patriarch, is a prospering community that numbers hundreds of thousands in Jerusalem, Brooklyn and the world over.

Every Shabbat morning, as I studied and chatted with my Zayde, your beloved Shimon, somehow, he’d ensure that the conversation made it back to Shedlitz (Siedlce) and you guys. With a twinkle in his eye, and an occasional tear rolling down his cheek, he’d share as much as he could remember of his beloved family. He would talk about how you’d admonish him for playing soccer during services, how kind you were to visiting Jews who needed a place to eat while in town and how, despite your unhappiness about the spiritual direction some of your children chose, you never ceased loving them with all your heart and soul. Shedlitz, his cherished hometown, was always on the tip of his tongue and the one picture he carried with him, physically and internally, was that of your daughter, his beloved sister Chana and her fiancé, who were both murdered before their wedding day.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about you. I live in a world that doesn’t necessarily think of the Holocaust as it used to. In Europe, the Middle-East and even here in the United States, there are those that would like to trivialize the incalculability of the Holocaust, and I assure you that your grandchildren and great-grandchildren, including Chavie and I, will never forget and will keep reminding whoever will listen. We won’t remember in sadness, we won’t carry bitterness in our heart; we will reminiscent with conviction, ensuring that our children and the communities we live in, from Johannesburg to Paramus, Waterloo to Kuai, Toulouse to Monsey, will never forget that for every survivor there was an incredible family and heritage left behind in the ash heaps of Central Europe.

In our prayers, every Monday and Thursday, we turn to G-d and we tell Him “Gaze down from heaven and see that we’ve become an object of scorn and derision among the nations. We have become considered like sheep led to the slaughter, to be slain, to be obliterated, to be stricken and to be disgraced. Nevertheless, we have not forgotten Your name. Please don’t forget us.”. I meditate on this prayer twice weekly and think of you. How proud you’d be of your family today and how we will never let your Kiddush Hashem, your G-dly sanctification, which you experienced in death, be wasted.

As I stand in Shul at Yizkor on Yom Kippur, I will think of all of those I adore and love. my mother Chanchy, my grandparents Reb Shimon and Esther Goldman, my Saba and Savta Mendel and Chana Brook, my Rebbe of righteous memory, and a few others, but this year I will think of you. I will think about how, despite all odds, we haven’t forgotten G-d’s name and that we haven’t forgotten yours either.

We have not forgotten your name: For close to seventy years, every year, on the 12th of Elul, the day he was told that Shedlitz was lit aflame and his family slayed, your son Shimon would stand in Shul and say Kaddish for his entire family. In a voice of yearning, sadness and honor he’d cry bitterly and memorialize his treasured Mishpocho.

We have not forgotten your name: After naming his first child for his beloved Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak, he named his three other children, Menucha Kraindel (AKA Kraindy) for his mom, Chana Leah (AKA Chanchy) for his two sisters and Shmuel Zanvil (AKA Shmuly) for his father. His love for ya’ll was real and boundless.

We have not forgotten your name: my brother Yanky is Yakov Yosef for two of your sons and so many of your great grandchildren are named for you: Shmuly, Chaim, Tzvi, Chani; you are part and parcel of our family story and we ponder often on how lucky we are to be the bearers of your torch.

We have not forgotten your name: You were devoted to Torah-Judaism and to a Chassidic lifestyle and, while we shifted from Gur to Chabad-Lubavitch, you’d enjoy so much Nachas to know that we continue that sacred lifestyle promulgated by the holy Baal Shem Tov with beards, modest dress, joyous lives and the study of Jewish mysticism.

We have not forgotten your name: My youngest daughter Chana Laya is named for her Bubby, my beloved mom, but she’s our family’s living embodiment of the Chana Laya her Bubby was named for. So, it lives on in Bozeman, Montana.

I often wonder what you were like and I would’ve loved to meet the people who shaped the life of my beloved Zayde. From what he told me, you guys were awesome and, while you didn’t have much, you were always grateful for that which G-d bestowed upon you. It wasn’t easy for Zayde to let go of you and run that day in the market place, but he knew in his gut that it was his only chance to survive, and he was right. Since Zayde Shimon passed I light a candle on the 12th of Elul in his stead, as your flame will remain lit forever. As I stand at Yizkor, I will remember those who came before me, who shaped those who guided me and who, despite being gone for over seventy years, still are a living inspiration to their hundreds of descendants.

This Yom Kippur, as you sit around in heaven with all your seven children, with your daughter-in-law my Bubbe Esther, with your granddaughter my mom Chanchy, please remember us, think about us, seek out your great-grand-children and their children and intercede on our behalf. Tell G-d that you’ve given enough for the Jewish people, it’s time for Him to give back to your family with blessings of health, financial stability and Nachas from our children.

While you’re at it: Tell Him we’ve suffered enough and we need Mashiach already, enough is enough.

Have an Easy Fast!

A proud heir,


PS Please give my mom a hug for me. I miss her dearly.


May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Moshiach speedily. May He protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

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