b. Sochachev, Poland, 1928
In the Warsaw Ghetto in 1941, everyone was starving.
Killing hunger. Swollen bellies, bloated faces, empty eyes, walking corpses, many already dead and dragged away.
The American Rabbinical Association arranged for the Joint Distribution Committee to distribute packages for the rabbis and their families before the High Holidays that year. As a rabbi, my father was one of those to receive these packages.
Who was the one to go to the distribution center to pick up the package? I was the most logical one in my family. My older brother and sisters would have been picked up for forced labor, and the babies were with my mother.
The queue was long. We were very patient. Many of us were weakened by hunger and could not stand for any length of time. Some sat, others lay, and some collapsed.
At last, I was number two in line. The man ahead of me opened his package instantly, exclaiming, “Thank God!” He looked at the dried milk, rice, chocolate, and powdered eggs inside, and left.
Now it was my turn. Hugging this life-sustaining package, I ran off. Suddenly two clawlike hands grabbed my package. Before I knew what had happened, this skeleton was downing the whole package. String. Paper. Everything.
I became hysterical and ran home. My parents comforted me. They explained that this man was not evil. “We live in horrible times, and even decent people are driven to act in this inhumane manner.”
My mother said, “With heaven's help we will manage. I still have my wedding ring for barter. We will usher in the New Year with dignity.”