A miraculous reunion

Yesterday evening, after Mincha/Maariv, Rabbi Mottel Gutnick, after having read my pitput of yesterday, told me another incredible story. I subsequently remembered Rabbi Mottel’s father, R’ Chaim Gutnick ז’ל used to play chess with Mottel Kinderlerler ז’ל.

I knew Mottel Kinderlerer from the days that I used to daven at “Katanga“. Mottel was a fierce Zionist and used to sit next to my brother-in-law’s father, Emeritus Professor Louis Waller שיל’’א. I sat in the back row of the Shule, in the far corner for several years. Katanga was an “interesting” place in those days. The Mispallelim were known to be rather pugnacious, for want of a more diplomatic word, and coveted the Amud with somewhat more physical relish than one would otherwise expect.

Apparently, towards the end of the war, Mottel, who as I recall was a member of the Zaglembier Landsmanschaft, survived the camps with his elderly father R’ Elimelech Zushe ז’ל. Towards the last days, Mottel found himself alone with his elderly father and the Nazis (if I’m not mistaken) decided to separate father and son. R’ Elimelech found himself in the midst of a hay stack, hiding from those who wanted to end his life. Mottel looked on in horror as the brazenly cruel murderers, realising that Jews were in the haystack, raised their bayonets, stabbing into the hay with gay and wanton abandon. Depressed and broken, Mottel eventually survived the Holocaust, but without his beloved father.

A few years later, Mottel found himself in England. There was a certain gentleman, who made it his business to especially invite spiritually broken holocaust survivors to his home on Friday evening. There was always a large crowd of survivors, many of whom were orphans, wherein they partook of a welcome warm Shabbos meal in a hospitable atmosphere.

The English gentleman, made no demands of the survivors, save that they would each be asked to say Kiddush separately. I’m not sure why he did that. In fact, I’m not sure if anyone knows why he did that. Clearly, he could have made kiddush for all of them. Perhaps he intended to attempt to re-ignite the badly damaged Jewish souls that had suffered so, at the hands of the Nazis, ימח שמם וזכרם.

When it came to Mottel’s turn, he refused to say Kiddush. He could not bring himself to say anything religious to God. After what he had witnessed, especially the horrid stabbing of his father, one could hardly blame Mottel. The English gentleman, persisted and persisted until R’ Mottel relented. After finishing  Kiddush, the English gentleman approached Mottel and complimented him on the unique Kiddush niggun/tune that he had intoned. Strangely, he went on, there was an elderly gentleman who had said Kiddush in his house, in exactly the same way only two weeks earlier.

The rest is history. The old man turned out to be R’ Elimelech Zushe, who had miraculously survived the frenzied attack on that hay stack.

[Perhaps some elements of this story aren’t perfectly correct. No doubt, someone from the Kinderlerer family, who live in Melbourne, will update me with any inaccurate details.]

Author: pitputim

I've enjoyed being a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia, as well as band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel and later in life at Machon L'Hora'ah, Yeshivas Halichos Olam.

4 thoughts on “A miraculous reunion”

  1. Reb Iche, you have to write a book on Elwood Shule, I don’t mean that anniversary book that came out a few years back but a real account on the real mispallelim (Sheyres HaPleyte), only you can do it, you’re the only one with the historical knowledge to compile such a chronicle. If not all will be lost!!


    1. I would have loved to, except that I’m criminally derelict in not spending hours going from Alter Yid to Alter Yid back in the the old days. I suspect the man who heard ALL the stories was the late R’ Chaim Gutnick ז’ל. I now greatly regret being too young to realise that I should go and talk and listen.


      1. Isn’t it ironic when one realises that now that most of the Holocaust generation has passed on the only thing that remains of this enigmatic generation are a few brief anecdotes, homilies, black & white photos and faded memories, how sad. If the walls of Elwood Shule could talk.


        1. Many will have recorded their memoirs. Someone with the time would do us all a great service if they could go through these at the Holocaust center, and other places.

          I still shiver when I see the plaque of the late and great R Chaim Yaffe ז׳ל a direct descendant of the Baal Shem Tov and the Levush and a humble Ish HaChesed


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