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Saturday, April 9, 2016

An exchange of letters re "Bubby's Prayers"

I received the following letter: 

Debbi Shapiro,
1. According to the narrative of a co survivor who escaped on the same transport as Rav Tuvia Weiss, the transport had been arranged by Rabbi Dr. Solomon Schonfeld. This kinder transport from Slovakia later merged with another transport from Vienna, which had been under the auspices of the Aguda, and then traveled further to England.

In another narrative, Rav Weiss said that he was saved by Rav Mechoel Ber Weismandl.  Rabbi Schonfeld, who had been a Talmud of Rav  Weismandl, very often worked with his mentor in his rescue work. Many of these Jewish children were taken in by generous hearted Gentiles, and Rav Shonfeld kept in touch, suggesting how to keep kashrut, and Shabbos. Rav Tuvia Weiss had his bar mitzva while he lived by English Gentiles, and in spite of that, he is now Dayan in Yerushalayim. 

2. Sir Winton was an incredible human being, who, as you mentioned, was not interested in Judaism or in the Judaism of his charges. In the documentary about him, "Nicky's Family" he stated that when the rabbis asked him to place the Jewish children in Jewish homes, he told them to save the children themselves. All of Sir Winton's refugee charges were, understandably, very grateful for his selflessness, including the child that proudly grew up to be an English priest.



Here is my response: 

Dear Mrs. xxxxxx,
Thank you so much for taking the time to comment on my article. I could never express my sentiments as eloquently as Dayan Weiss, who wrote the following letter to the Winton family upon learning of Sir Nicholas' passing.

Dear the Winton Family,

I was saddened to learn of the passing of Sir Nicholas Winton, the person who risked his own life, selflessly working and succeeding to save me and a large number of others. I want to share my condolences with you. May Sir Winton rest in peace, and may his noble, courageous, selfless memory stay with us forever and be of comfort to you.

At a time of darkness and bloodshed, very few had the strength to overcome the fear, threats and violence, to stand up for humanity. Your father is of that tiny league, of a handful of people who had the strong moral conviction and determination to save hundreds and thousands from being slaughtered. I’m in awe of his noble character. Not only did he risk everything to save lives, but he didn’t even expect any credit for it. For decades, I didn’t know who my rescuer was due to his unbelievable humbleness, until the secret was revealed by others.

I – and my entire family of children, grandchildren, and great- grandchildren, who are alive – would not be here, if not for your great father. While he’s no longer physically with us, his memory lives on with all of those who are among the living thanks to him.

May the merit of his brave and selfless acts elevate the soul of Sir Nicholas Winton, and may it brighten the lives of his surviving family. His great deeds are not forgotten and will eternally remain inscribed with golden letters as one of the most heroic acts to ever happen. May his legacy be an example for others to emulate.

With condolences and blessings of Yerushalayim, from the depths of my heart,

The 19th of Tammuz, 5775

Rabbi Yitzchok Tuvia Weiss,

Chief Rabbi, Edah Haredit Jerusalem

p.s. I regret that I didn’t have a chance to personally express my gratitude to Sir Winton, as I desired. I was hoping to see him last winter, during a planned trip to England, which unfortunately had to be canceled. Should a family member ever visit Israel and would like to visit me, please don’t hesitate to contact my secretary. It would be a privilege to at least express my gratitude to a scion of my rescuer.

To see a copy of the original (which was printed in the Eidah newspaper here in Jerusalem:http://matzav.com/letter-rav-yitzchok-tuvia-weiss-gaavad-of-the-eidah-hachareidus-pays-tribute-to-sir-nicholas-winton/
According to Wikipedia, Winton's parents, Rudolph Wertheim and Barbara (née Wertheimer) were German Jews who moved to London in 1907, two years before Nicholas' birth, and converted to Christianity. So although Winton considered himself a gentile, he was, in fact, a Jew.
Debbie Shapiro 

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