do you know Irena Sendler? you should……

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Irena Sendler

Died: May 12, 2008 (age 98)

Warsaw, Poland

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During WWII, Irena got permission to work in the Warsaw Ghetto, as a social worker, and occasionally posed as a nurse.  She had an ulterior motive.

Irena smuggled orphans off the streets in Warsaw.   She also carried a burlap sack in the back of her truck  (not her truck) for larger children to hide inside. The most famous of the child survivors, Elzbieta Ficowska, was rescued in the bottom of a tool box she carried, at 5 months old. Irena’s network of rescuers was almost all social workers, consisting of 24 women and one man.

Irena kept a dog in the back of the truck that she trained to bark when the Nazi’s let her in and out of the ghetto. The soldiers, of course, wanted nothing to do with the dog, and the barking covered the sounds of the children’s cries. 

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During her time of doing this, she smuggled and saved 2,500 children.  Sadly, she was caught by the Gestapo and put in Pawiak Prison where she was tortured and her arms and legs were fractured.

Irena kept a record of all the children she had smuggled out, in a glass jar and buried under an apple tree in a friend’s backyard.  After the war she tried to locate any parent that had survived and tried to reunite the family.  Most of them had been gassed.  Those children she helped place in adoptive or foster families.

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 In 2007, Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize.

She was not selected.

Al Gore won for a Global Warming slide show.

Later Barak Obama won for his work as a community organizer for ACORN.

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I want to remember Irena Sendler.  She is my hero.  She is worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize.

Please read more of her story HERE.

the wedding gown that made history…

Lilly Friedman doesn’t remember the last name of the woman who designed and sewed the wedding gown she wore when she walked down the aisle over 60 years ago. But the grandmother of seven does recall that when she first told her fiancé Ludwig that she had always dreamed of being married in a white gown he realized he had his work cut out for him. For the tall, lanky 21-year-old who had survived hunger, disease and torture this was a different kind of challenge.  How was he ever going to find such a dress in the Bergen Belsen Displaced Person’s camp where they felt grateful for the clothes on their backs?
Fate would intervene in the guise of a former German pilot who walked into the food distribution center where Ludwig worked, eager to make a trade for his worthless parachute. In exchange for two pounds of coffee beans and a couple of packs of cigarettes Lilly would have her wedding gown.
For two weeks Miriam the seamstress worked under the curious eyes of her fellow DPs, carefully fashioning the six parachute panels into a simple, long sleeved gown with a rolled collar and a fitted waist that tied in the back with a bow. When the dress was completed she sewed the leftover material into a matching shirt for the groom. A white wedding gown may have seemed like a frivolous request in the surreal environment of the camps, but for Lilly the dress symbolized the innocent, normal life she and her family had once led before the world descended into madness. Lilly and her siblings were raised in a Torah observant home in the small town of Zarica, Czechoslovakia where her father was a teacher, respected and well liked by the young yeshiva students he taught in nearby Irsheva. He and his two sons were marked for extermination immediately upon arriving at Auschwitz. For Lilly and her sisters it was only their first stop on their long journey of persecution, which included Plashof, Neustadt, Gross Rosen and finally Bergen Belsen.
Four hundred people marched 15 miles in the snow to the town of Celle on January 27, 1946 to attend Lilly and Ludwig’s wedding. The town synagogue, damaged and desecrated, had been lovingly renovated by the DPs with the meager materials available to them. When Sefer Torah arrived from England they converted an old kitchen cabinet into a makeshift Aron Kodesh. “My sisters and I lost everything – our parents, our two brothers, our homes. The most important thing was to build a new home.” Six months later, Lilly’s sister Ilona wore the dress when she married Max Traeger. After that came Cousin Rosie. How many brides wore Lilly’s dress? “I stopped counting after 17.” With the camps experiencing the highest marriage rate in the world, Lilly’s gown was in great demand. In 1948 when President Harry Truman finally permitted the 100,000 Jews who had been languishing in DP camps since the end of the war to emigrate, the gown accompanied Lilly across the ocean to America. Unable to part with her dress, it lay att the bottom of her bedroom closet for the next 50 years, “not even good enough for a garage sale. I was happy when it found such a good home.” Home was the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. When Lily’s niece, a volunteer, told museum officials about her aunt’s dress, they immediately recognized its historical significance and displayed the gown in a specially designed showcase, guaranteed to preserve it for 500 years. But Lilly Friedman’s dress had one more journey to make. Bergen Belsen, the museum, opened its doors on October 28, 2007. The German government invited Lilly and her sisters to be their guests for the grand opening They initially declined, but finally traveled to Hanover the following year with their children, their grandchildren and extended families to view the extraordinary exhibit created for the wedding dress made from a parachute. Lilly’s family, who were all familiar with the stories about the wedding in Celle , were eager to visit the synagogue. They found the building had been completely renovated and modernized. But when they pulled aside the handsome curtain they were astounded to find that the Aron Kodesh, made from a kitchen cabinet, had remained untouched as a testament to the profound faith of the survivors. As Lilly stood on the bimah once again she beckoned to her granddaughter, Jackie, to stand beside her where she was once a kallah. “It was an emotional trip. We cried a lot.” Two weeks later, the woman who had once stood trembling before the selective eyes of the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele returned home and witnessed the marriage of her granddaughter. The three Lax sisters – Lilly, Ilona and Eva, who together survived Auschwitz, a forced labor camp, a death march and Bergen Belsen – have remained close and today live within walking distance of each other in Brooklyn. As mere teenagers, they managed to outwit and outlive a monstrous killing machine, then went on to marry, have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and were ultimately honored by the country that had earmarked them for extinction. As young brides, they had stood underneath the chuppah and recited the blessings that their ancestors had been saying for thousands of years. In doing so, they chose to honor the legacy of those who had perished by choosing life.

so….what’s the passover anyway?

  Well, as always, we need to go back to the Bible and see where it all started…

The Passover refers to the fact that God passed over the houses of the Jews when he was bringing down judgement and slaying the firstborn of Egypt.   This all begins in the second book of the Bible, Exodus.

Jacob and his children had arrived in Egypt, to be close to Joseph ….. you’re saying, slow down there sister…...  Who is Jacob and Joseph, you say?  Well, then we need to back up again and see what their story is all about.

Jacob is Joseph’s father.  Jacob loved Joseph dearly and gave him preferential treatment causing his own brothers to envy him and sell him into slavery.  He landed into Egypt, where after serving enslavement and prison, he interpreted Pharaoh’s puzzling dreams and becomes second in command in Egypt.  So Joseph (and his forgiving heart) decide to bring his family to Goshen where they prospered and their numbers grew and grew.  So as long as Jacob’s sons are alive, the children of Israel were given honor and respect.  However, after the passing of Joseph, there arose a king who did not know him (or as some commentaries say, CHOSE not to know him).  So now there is trouble a brewing….(and it’s not coffee…)

The king sees that the children of Israel are great in number and he starts to freak.  So the “egyptian way” of dealing with their ‘jewish problem’  is to make them their slaves.  The jews are now forced into back breaking labor as they built cities of treasure houses for Pharaoh.  But Pharaoh notices that they are multiplying like rabbits and he tells the midwives to kill all the newborn baby jewish boys.  Thankfully, the midwives just can’t bring themselves to do it and Pharaoh notices that they are still growing in leaps and bounds!  So he just decides to find ALL the baby boys and have them thrown into the Nile!  What a nut-job!

However, one mother hides her newborn (enter Moses) and is able to conceal him for three months before putting him in a little woven basket and placing him in the Nile River.  She sends her daughter, Miriam, to watch the baby as he floated toward the Pharaoh’s daughter, who is bathing.  She sees the basket, opens it and finds a little Jewish baby boy!  Meanwhile, Miriam casually walks up and says, “Soo…..if you need a lady to be a wet-nurse for the baby, I could find someone for you!”  (wouldn’t this totally seem suspicious?  Praise God, her interest was NOT peaked!)  So Miriam goes back to her mother, where she cares for and nurses, little baby Moses.  When Moses has grown older, he goes back to the palace for Pharaoh’s daughter to raise him like her own.

Ok.  Still with me?  Joseph has died…Moses has been born…and the children of Israel have been hammering out an entire city during all this time.  PHEW!!!  So much has happened and the craziness is just getting started!!!!

Moses eventually leaves the palace and sees the hardship of his fellow jews.  In fact, he sees an Egyptian beating a jewish man and Moses steps in and kills him!  Ooopsy!  Next thing you know, he is found out and has to flee!  But no prob.  He goes to a place called Midian and marries a woman and becomes a shepherd of his father in law’s flock.  (hmm….things seem to be going along quite smoothly, don’t you think?)  No.

So, Moses is out with his flock of sheep, where he comes upon a burning bush!  AND it speaks to him!!  God is telling him to go back to Pharaoh and tell him to ‘free His people so that they can serve Him’.   And get this….Moses says, “Well, I have a bit of a speech impediment…..sooo…..why don’t you get my brother, Aaron to speak for me?”  (Wow. … trust me…if God asks….no TELLS you to do something….in the words of Nike, JUST DO IT!)

Moses and Aaron pack up and go back to Pharaoh to tell him to let the people of Israel go.  However, their little speech only causes more trouble to be poured out on the jewish people.  Moses cries out to God and God tells him that there is a Promised Land, and He will surely take his people there.

Ok, finally we are getting around to the meaning of Passover.  In a nutshell, Moses continually goes to Pharaoh and tells him to ‘let his people go’ yet Pharaoh’s heart is hardened.  So here are the plagues that rain down on Egypt.

  • Aaron strikes the Nile, the waters turn to blood;
  • Swarms of frogs overrun the land;
  • Lice infest all men and beasts. Still, Pharaoh remains stubborn;
  • Hordes of wild animals invade the cities,
  • A pestilence kills the domestic animals,
  • Painful boils afflict the Egyptians.
  • Fire and ice combine to descend from the skies as a devastating hailstorm
  • A swarm of locusts devours all the crops and greenery;
  • a thick, palpable darkness envelops the land
Pharaoh continues to harden his heart and not let the children of Israel go, so God instructs the Israelites to prepare a PASSOVER OFFERING to God.  A lamb is to be slaughtered and it’s blood is to be sprinkled on the doorpost of each jewish house, so God will passover the home when He comes to kill the firstborn of every Egyptian family.  The lamb is to be roasted and eaten with matzah and bitter herbs later that evening.
 So the tenth plague is brought upon the Egyptians at the stroke of midnight and every firstborn child was killed except for the homes with the blood of the lamb, sprinkled over the doorframe of the jewish homes.
So there you are!  For over 3,400 years Jews the world over have celebrated this event – the escape from Egypt by power and by blood, and the beginnings of the people of Israel as an actual nation – in THE PASSOVER.

(Another interesting fact) The Christian Lord’s Supper, also celebrating the redemption of God’s people by power and blood, grows out of the Passover, both historically and theologically.
SO………..NOW YOU KNOW.