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The Kindness that Came Back
By Yisrael Nathan (as told to the Jewish Magazine staff)
Chessed : (definition) an act of loving
kindness done without any expectation of remuneration
Don't think that the really great stories are the one's that are
written by the world's greatest writers. The really great stories
are the stories that really happened to real people and they are
really and absolutely true. The following is one of the many really
great stories. Great because it's really true!
America had finally entered World War I. Troops poured into Europe
to put an end to the war. The war was in it's final stages. American
troops were dispatched through out Germany. The year was 1917.
A lone Jewish soldier from Duluth, Minnesota, Alex Lurye, found
himself in a small German town called Seldes. It was Friday night.
Being far away from home was lonely. The young Jewish soldier
had some time on his hands. Feeling out of place, he decided to
see what the local Jewish population was like. Entering the local
village synagogue must have created a stir. An American soldier
in uniform!. The Americans fought the Germans in bitter combat. The lone soldier felt out of place. He was greeted
by a kind German Jew by the name of Herr Rosenau who made him
feel at home in the synagogue.
After the services, Herr Rosenau invited the serviceman to his
house for kiddush and the traditional Friday night meal.
Seeing the beauty of a traditional Shabbat together with the warmth
and kindness of this German-Jewish family made a deep impression
on this young soldier. He was a stranger, a foreigner, even an
enemy Yet because he was Jewish he was invited to another Jew's
home, given a delicious warm kosher home cooked meal, complete
with wine and the traditional Shabbat songs. Herr Rosenau's family,
together with his teenage daughter, gave the soldier the feeling
that he was not alone, certainly not an enemy, even in such a
far and distant land.
The soldier was never able to come back again to see this kind
family again. However, the warm impression that he had received,
the experience of the Shabbat in a warm and caring Jewish home
did not leave him. It meant so much to this young soldier that
when he finally returned to Duluth, Minnesota, his home town,
he took time out to sit down and write a letter to the German
Jew who had touched his life with such kindness. This was is 1917.
For some unknown reason, although Herr Rosenau received the letter
it was never answered. It was placed in a desk drawer and there
it rested for twenty one years.
Time moves on. Ruth, the teenage daughter of the German Jew,
has grown up and married a German Jew by the name of Eugen Wienberg.
She now has three small children. The oldest is a boy of eleven.
The time is a bad time for the German Jews. The year is 1938.
The dreaded Adolf Hitler has taken hold upon Germany and anti
Jewish proclamations are being contrived and enforced on a continually
regular basis. Herr Rosenau is now a grandfather. He is bothered
about the dark and dismal future for himself and his fellow Jews
in Germany. He doesn't pay attention to his eleven year old grandson,
Sigbert, as he is rummaging through his desk looking for something
of interest. Suddenly a foreign postage stamp catches his eye. He pulls
out the envelope with the postage stamp from America. "Grandfather, can
I have this?"
Twenty one years have past since he received the letter. "Yes,
take it," the grandfather replies. After years of giving,
an old forgotten envelope makes his grandson happy. He takes it
home to his mother. "Look, look what grandfather has given
The mother and her husband, Herr Wienberg eye the envelope with
curiosity. The letter is still inside. They remove the letter
and read it. It is the thank you letter from the American service man,
from twenty-one years ago.
The mother remembers the young man. "Let's write to him!
Maybe he will remember us and sponsor us, enabling us to immigrate
to America" (It must be remembered that the U.S.A. did not
let refugees come to it's shores freely. However if some one would
sponsor you, then there was a chance.)
Looking on the envelope, they saw that there was no return address
only the name, Alex Lurye, and the city and state, Duluth, Minnesota.
"We have no future in Germany, we must get out before this
mad man, Hitler, begins to do worse things to the Jews".
So they wrote a letter addressed only as follows:
What can you do? Can you send a letter to a person in a large
city with out a street address and expect it to be delivered?
Of course not. You would have to be foolish to think that it would
get to it's destination. But some times it works out. In this
case, Alex Luyre had become a wealthy businessman who was well
known in Duluth, a town of over a hundred thousand people. The
postmaster delivered the letter.
When Alex received it, after a lapse of twenty one years, he quickly
sent a return letter acknowledging his receipt of their letter
and pledging to help bring the Wienberg family to Duluth. Alex
kept his promise. The entire Wienberg family was brought over
in that year and arrived in May of 1938. Shortly there after,
the Rosenau family came over to America.
In Duluth, the Wienberg family began working hard to make life
bearable through the depression era. Sometimes two jobs were necessary
for both the father and mother in order to make it through the
week. Yet in Duluth as in Seldes, Germany, the family made sure
that the Shabbat would be joyously honored.
The rest of the family was quickly brought over to the states. Unfortunately, the horrible World War II swiftly came.
The rest of German Jewry was destroyed.
Yet the kindness that Herr Rosenau had given to a stranger twenty
one years earlier had come full circle. Because of their kindness,
with out any thought of personal gain, Herr Rosenau and his family
were spared from the horrible fate of their fellow German Jews.
The chessed that they had so warmly given to others with out desiring
a payment in return had come back to them with dividends. The
entire family was saved.
Today that family has sprouted and grown. A family blessed with
many children and grandchildren and great-grand-children (Bli Iyin Hara). All
have taken upon themselves always to honor the Shabbat.
Doing chessed is the Jewish way. Helping another Jew, with out
trying to receive a thing in return. Pure and unadulterated kindness.
It's for you and for me.
* * * * *
For more Great True Stories, see our Archives
from the November, 1997 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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