Rabbi Levi Wolff’s Tribute To A Japanese Hero – An Update

Rabbi Levi Wolff’s documents now added

My interview with Rabbi Levi Wolff

at Central Synagogue, Bondi Junction, Sydney

on 15 December 2014

Rabbi Levi Wolff talked about the visit to Sydney of Kei Sugihara, great grandson of Chiune Sugihara as well as Rabbi Wolff’s own family connection to the Japanese hero who saved so many Jewish lives.

Rabbi Levi Wolff

Rabbi Wolff’s maternal grandfather Rabbi Yechezkel Deren was a 13-yr-old boy studying in a yeshiva in Poland. The family fled Poland to Kaunas, Lithuania, where Sugihara issued a visa. When Japan entered the war, Yechezkel Deren was amongst those who moved to Shanghai

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DEREN, Chaskiel Sugihara 2 Visa Date 20 Aug

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An emotional meeting with an icon’s great-grandson

December 5, 2014 by Henry Benjamin
Read on for article

Descendants of Jews who escaped Nazi Europe through the heroic actions of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, have met his great-grandson in Sydney.

“Sempo” Sugihara was a Japanese consul in Kaunas, Lithuania who ignored instructions from Tokyo in 1940 and issued exit visas to an estimated 6,000 Jews who successfully escaped the Nazi persecution in World War II.

Visas were also issued ignoring instructions to thousands who were unable to get out of Europe many of whom perished in the Nazi death camps. The exact number of Jews who received visas from Sugihara is unknown but estimates put the number of family visas he issued around 6,000.

Many put the figure of those Jews who are alive today because of Sugihara’s bravery at around 40,000.

For those who made it to Kobe in Japan, life was relatively peaceful as they made their homes amongst the Russian Jewish community which had lived there for over 100 years. But all changed after Pearl Harbour and Japan’s entry into the war and the Kobe-based European Jews were sent to Shanghai. Many moved again to other parts of the world…including Australia.

At The Sydney Jewish Museum, representing their families, Rabbi Levi Wolff, John Roth, Victor Grynberg met Keisuke Sugihara, the 21-yr-old great-grandson of Sugihara on his first visit to Australia.

Accompanying Grynberg were his grandchildren Asher, 13, Maya, 11 and Tali 11 who are the great-grandchildren of the late Dora and Oscar Grynberg who travelled to Kobe on visas issued by Sugihara.

Asher Grynberg, Rabbi Levi Wolff, Keisuke Sugihara, John Roth, Maya Grynberg, Victor Grynberg and Tali Grynberg

Keisuke or Kei as he prefers to be known has his great-grandfather’s surname only because his mother, Sugihara’s granddaughter, persuaded her husband Nakamura to adopt it in July this year so that it may live on.  Kei explained: “This year my 19-yr-old sister started university so the family thought this would be a good time to change the name.” He told J-Wire the change had been effected specifically to ensure that his great-grandfather’s name would be remembered.

Rabbi Levi Wolff shows Asher Grynberg and Keisuke Sugihara his grandfather's photograph

Kei Sugihara believed that his great-grandfather had followed his human instincts in doing what he did saying “I am very proud of him”. Kei was six years old when he  first heard of great grandfather’s life-saving actions. “I learned about it in my elementary school text books and I remember  my father telling me ‘your great grandfather saved a lot of people’.”

On his trip to Australia Kei Sugihara has met Jewish people for the first time in his life…but it won’t be the last. He plans to meet members of other families who are descendants of those his grandfather saved in other parts of the world.

John Roth, Victor Grynberg and Rabbi Levi Wolff told Kei stories of their families’ experiences with Grynberg pointing out that his older brother had been born in Kobe and that John Roth’s father had been the sandek at his brit.

Rabbi Levi Wolff said: “The thousands that he saved had hundred and hundreds of descendants. We’re talking about around forty thousand people are alive today because one man didn’t allow his conscience to let him sleep at night. The power of one is unbelievable.”

Rabbi Wolff told Kei Sugihara: “Your great-grandfather could not handle the fact people were being persecuted and being killed. He could have turned a blind eye to it but he put his life in danger because he felt that it was the right thing to do.”

Rabbi Levi Wolff, Victor Grynberg. Maya Grynberg, Keisuke Sugihara and John Roth

He told Sugihara’s great-grandson that the Japanese consul would not allow what most of the world was turning a blind eye to.

Rabbi Wolff told those gathered at the museum that when Sugihara’s family was traced after the war every effort was made to help them telling Kei that his grandparents were sent to university in Israel.

Rabbi Levi Wolff’s mother’s father Rabbi Yechezkel Deren was a 13-yr-old boy studying in a yeshiva in Poland. The family fled Poland arriving in the Lithuanian city in which Sugihara was based eventually getting a visa from him. As Japan entered the war Rabbi Deren was amongst those who moved to Shanghai. Rabbi Wolff said: “We never knew the story as my grandfather never spoke about it. It was hard for many to relive the experience. He lost everybody in his family except for his sister.” He told Kei that in 1980 Readers Digest did a story on his great-grandfather. That’s when those he had saved sought to find him and his family. He saved more Jews than Schindler.”

Victor Grynberg explained that Schindler had made commercial use of the Jews he saved and that Sugihara had not charged anything for the visas he issued even though some of them may have been onsold.

Rabbi Levi Wolff told J-Wire: “The Jewish people have long memories. We not only remember those who wish to destroy us but we also remember those who stood up for us when others tried to eradicate us. We will not forget what Kei Sugihara’s great-grandfather did for us. I am eternally grateful. Meeting Kei was like paying a debt of gratitude on behalf of my grandfather.”

Victor Grynberg added: “I took Kei to Sydney’s Moriah College and proudly showed him how the Roth and Grynberg families who had benefited from his great-grandfather’s achievements had contributed to the community in which they now live. Meeting Kei has been a highly emotional experience. I remember my late mother at the age of 90 touring provincial area with Courage to Care telling the Sugihara story.”

For John Roth the meeting was hard to grasp. he told J-Wire: “It is hard to comprehend the enormity of what his great-grandfather achieved. Rabbi Wolff choked on his words when he made reference to the 40,000 who live today because of Sugihara’s actions and bravery. I did too.”

When Kei visits Rabbi Wolff’s congregation on Shabbat at Sydney’s Central Synagogue, he will receive a framed Talmudic saying from Rabbi Levi Wolff…”He Who Saves One Life it is as if he has saved an entire world.”

Before returning to Japan to continue his education studies ahead of a hoped-for career in diplomacy, Keisuke Sugihara will travel to Queensland’s Bundaberg to pick fruit.  But his life’s plan also includes extensive world travel and more meetings with Jews who owe their existence to Chiune “Sempo” Sugihara.

A photograph of Sugihara is on permanent exhibition at the Sydney Jewish Museum.

If you or someone you know is a descendant email sugihara@jwire.com.au and J-Wire will pass on your details to Keisuke.

Chiune Sugihara

Chiune Sugihara

Native name  杉原 千畝
Born 1 January 1900 Yaotsu, Gifu, Japan. Died 31 July 1986 (aged 86)Kamakura, Kanagawa, JapanNationalityJapanese
Other names”Sempo”, Pavlo Sergeivich Sugihara
OccupationVice-Consul for the Empire of Japan in Lithuania. Known forRescue of some ten thousand Jews during the Holocaust
Religion Eastern Orthodox Church
Spouse(s)Klaudia Semionovna Apollonova (m. 1919; div. 1935)Yukiko Kikuchi (m. 1935)
Awards:
Righteous Among the Nations (1985)
Chiune Sugihara (杉原 千畝 Sugihara Chiune?, 1 January 1900 – 31 July 1986) was a Japanese diplomat who served as Vice-Consul for the Empire of Japan in Lithuania. During World War II, he helped several thousand Jews leave the country by issuing transit visas to Jewish refugees so that they could travel to Japan. Most of the Jews who escaped were refugees from German-occupied Poland and residents of Lithuania. Sugihara wrote travel visas that facilitated the escape of more than 6,000 Jewish refugees to Japanese territory, risking his career and his family’s lives. Sugihara had told the refugees to call him “Sempo”, the Sino-Japanese reading of the characters in his first name, discovering it was much easier for Western people to pronounce.[1] In 1985, Israel honored him as Righteous Among the Nations for his actions.
For more, visit the Shanghai Kehilalink at:

http://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/shanghai

2. My visit to the Sugihara House Museum in Kaunas, Lithuania in May.

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Students with their lecturer, Raimundas Kaminskas. I was asked to address them – May 2014

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The Museum’s guide, Ramunas Janulaitis.

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3. Nine Forth, Kaunas 2012

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4. Reprinted from J-Wire with permission of Henry Benjamin

Orla, Poland – The Memory Lasts – Video

In case you missed the video from my last post

“The memory lasts” – the celebration commemorating the deportation of Jews from Orla
November 3, 2014 r. In the synagogue in Orla held the commemoration of 72 anniversary of the deportation of Jews from Orla. As part of the ceremony took place “Concert of Remembrance” starring Nicholas Haskin and volunteers “Shomer International” with Belarus and movies are shown Wheels Regional School in Orla titled “Ghetto in Orla,” and “Yes, we remember them.” After the meeting in the synagogue all went to the cemetery, where read 320 names of Jews deported from our village.
The ceremony was attended by the Secretary of the Municipality Orla – Irena Odzijewicz, Haim Dov Beliak – Rabbi of Beit Poland, Representative of the Governor for National Minorities and Ethnic – Maciej Tefelski, Vice-President of the Society of Friends of Jewish Culture – Dariusz Szada-Borzyszkowski, founder of the Association “We are looking for Polish” – Tomasz Wisniewski, Director of the Municipal Cultural Centre in Orla – Anna Niesteruk, Director of the School in Orla – Maria Tomczuk, teachers and pupils of secondary schools and the local inhabitants.

Orla, Poland – The Memory Lasts

Orla is the birthplace of my zaida, Nachum Mendel Rabinowitz.

It is 55.5km from Bialystok in NE Poland

See translated text below

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“Pamięć trwa” – obchody upamiętnienia wywózki żydów z Orli

3 listopada 2014 r. w Synagodze w Orli odbyły się obchody upamiętniające 72 rocznicę wywózki Żydów z Orli. W ramach uroczystości odbył się “Koncert Pamięci” z udziałem Mikołaja Haskina i wolontariuszy “Shomer International” z Białorusi oraz zostały przedstawione filmy Szkolnego Koła Regionalnego w Orli p.t.: “Getto w Orli” i “Tak ich pamiętamy”. Po spotkaniu w Synagodze wszyscy udali się na kirkut, gdzie odczytano 320 nazwisk Żydów, wywiezionych z naszej miejscowości.

W uroczystości wzięli udział: Sekretarz Gminy Orla – Irena Odzijewicz, Haim Dov Beliak – Rabin z Bejt Polska, Pełnomocnik Wojewody do Spraw Mniejszości Narodowych i Etnicznych – Maciej Tefelski, Wiceprezes Towarzystwa Przyjaciół Kultury Żydowskiej – Dariusz Szada-Borzyszkowski, Założyciel Stowarzyszenia “Szukamy Polski” – Tomasz Wiśniewski, Dyrektor Gminnego Ośrodka Kultury w Orli – Anna Niesteruk, Dyrektor Zespołu Szkół w Orli – Maria Tomczuk, nauczyciele i uczniowie klas gimnazjalnych oraz mieszkańcy gminy.

I translated this into English via Google Translate:

“The memory lasts” – the celebration commemorating the deportation of Jews from Orla
November 3, 2014 r. In the synagogue in Orla held the commemoration of 72 anniversary of the deportation of Jews from Orla. As part of the ceremony took place “Concert of Remembrance” starring Nicholas Haskin and volunteers “Shomer International” with Belarus and movies are shown Wheels Regional School in Orla titled “Ghetto in Orla,” and “Yes, we remember them.” After the meeting in the synagogue all went to the cemetery, where read 320 names of Jews deported from our village.
The ceremony was attended by the Secretary of the Municipality Orla – Irena Odzijewicz, Haim Dov Beliak – Rabbi of Beit Poland, Representative of the Governor for National Minorities and Ethnic – Maciej Tefelski, Vice-President of the Society of Friends of Jewish Culture – Dariusz Szada-Borzyszkowski, founder of the Association “We are looking for Polish” – Tomasz Wisniewski, Director of the Municipal Cultural Centre in Orla – Anna Niesteruk, Director of the School in Orla – Maria Tomczuk, teachers and pupils of secondary schools and the local inhabitants.
Watch video:


fot. Tomasz Wiśniewski

Created by raptorf22

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The History of Orla – via Google Translate:

Orla Municipality has a rich historical past and tradition. The beginnings of Orli date back to ancient times, as evidenced by the area found objects, stone and bronze.The name of the town derives from the supposedly lived here once eagles, or on elements of water, mainly Orlanki river, near which it is situated. The earliest message archival record on Orli is derived from 1507. It concerns land grant by the King, where he now lies Orla, as well as the surrounding areas in the district of Bielsko, writer, palatine Trotsky Jasiek Iwanowiczowi. These were villages Koszel, Wierwieczki, Topczykały which were quickly populated strangers and free peasantry. Along with granting the king allowed the palatine Trotsky set up in Orla city, which took place at a later date.

From 1510r. Orla was owned by the treasurer of the Lithuanian Bohusz Bohowitynowicza, who settled in Podlasie Brzeski. Then Koszel and Wierwieczki villages were converted manor house in Trakai. A similar fate befell the village Topczykały.

In 1529. Bohusz Bohowitynowicz Orli heir bequeathed property Orlańską old daughter, Annie, who having married in 1539. Stanislaus Łęczna Orleans brought him a dowry. In 1541r. King Sigismund I issued an order saying so, Bielski subjected to raid goods Orla. The next owners were the Orli princes Olelkowicze Słuccy arms pursuit. From them, and in 1585 took good Orlański in his hands Radzivills. Then the Eagle as a settlement is of particular importance in economic and political life of the region then. Hetman Grand Duchy of Lithuania Krzysztof Radziwill erected here in 1622. Castle and Calvinist. He created a vast complex of the palace court, Italian garden, sacred objects, and the grange. An integral part of the manor was the church of St. John the Theologian castle. To date, none of the preserved castle.

Due to the huge efforts Hetman orlańskim townspeople already in 1618r. Vilnius was granted a number of rights and promised to give the Magdeburg rights, provided that the current pace of growth. Succeeded by Hetman Krzysztof Radziwill – Janusz Radziwill in 1633 confirmed the need to give the benefit of the city. In 1634. Orla obtained municipal rights. It was a period full of prosperity of the city and surrounding areas. In this then, after the worship of believers, many trade fairs were held on the established Mart, trade flourished cultural and political life. The city became a center of the Calvinist movement. In 1644r. was held here under the chairmanship of Janusz Radziwill, synod makers Polish and Lithuanian. Besides held numerous meetings Calvinists.

During the wars with Sweden in the years 1655-1657 the city suffered heavily, and the followers of Calvinism extinct. In 1726r. suspended in the congregation a new bell but the same year the church invaded the bishop of Lodz and the bell is answered. According to the church archives in the possession Calvinists to 1732. Around 1754 the church was sold by his wife Radziwill – the Jews. According to legend, the wife demanded in return Radziwill 10k. cents, which were to be paid within one hour, but the same grosikami. According to another version 2.5 thousand. cents were delivered in one night. It should be noted that the Eagle was the beginning of Jewish settlement as early as the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. According to the census of 1616. There were 17 Jewish houses and wooden synagogue. In 1655r. 540 Jews lived next to the Orthodox and Catholic. In 1765. Jewish community in Orla and the surrounding villages had 1358 followers of Moses and was twice the size of the municipality of Bialystok. Good, liberal laws and privileges given to allow the Jews to the unshakable existences and peaceful life alongside people of other faiths.

During this time, Eagle was owned by the family Branickis. In 1795. as a result of the efforts of Isabella Branicka, orlańscy Jews received tax breaks. In the same year under the treaties subdivision, Podlasie coincided with Prussia. Dissection of the Republic changed your relationship and was the cause of the sharp drop in the population. In 1799r. Orla had 486 residents, including 102 Jews.

In 1807. under the Treaty of Tilsit Orla was incorporated into the so-called. Bialystok circuit. During this time, the town has a population of 1586 inhabitants in the 1102 Orthodox Jews. In 1842. was included in the Government of Grodno, then became the property of Prince Wittgenstejna- husband of Princess Radziwill. In 1874. Wittgenstejn sold lands Orlański Orli residents and the surrounding countryside on the property. Then the Eagle lost its municipal rights, and along with this there was a setback in its development. In 1897. the number of inhabitants was about 3 thousand. of which the followers of Moses was 80%. In 1921. was in the district of the province of Bialystok Bielsko. In this period of cohabitation Orthodox community, Catholic, Jewish and starozakonnej układało in Orla correctly. Attend to common schools, created political organizations, have brought social activists and party. In the interwar period, the municipality of Communist Party of Western Belarus, Belarusian Peasants ‘and Workers’ Union Jewish community formed in Orla small industry, trade and services. There were three tile factory, which was owned by a Jewish family Wajsztejnów. Place of employment in kaflarniach were several hundred people from Orla and the surrounding countryside.

In 1937. Orla was destroyed in the range of about 30% of the buildings by fires started by the Jewish inhabitant. As a result of huge losses, many families have lost their place of residence and occupation. In 1939,. Began World War II. Orleans passed by Soviet troops and German. Residents affected by the tragic events. Inside Orli and ordered the resettlement area. The Jewish population was placed in two ghettos and then completely removed from the orlańskiego landscape. In the postwar period Orla village community had about 1,100 inhabitants. Most of them were engaged in farm work, some found employment in a few factories, such as tile factory, brickyard, concrete.

Currently, Orla Municipality is located in the south-eastern part of the region of Podlasie. It borders the municipalities of: Bielsk Podlaski, Dubicze Cerkiewne, Boćki and Czyz. Distance seat of the municipality of the district ie. The city Bielsk Podlaski is 12 km. The area municipalities run routes, the national road to the border of the state, provincial road to Białowieża and numerous county and municipal roads. Rivers flow; Orlanka and proteins. The total area of the municipality is 15 968 ha of agricultural land in the 12 789 ha and 1862 ha of forests. The commune consists of 22 villages, which are home to a total of 3 214 inhabitants (as of 31.12.2010.).

Wnętrze synagogi w Orli

(fot. M. Gołownia)

      

  

Andrew Denton and I Share Common Roots

Andrew Denton discovers that he is part of the illustrious Katzenellenbogen Rabbinic Family Tree.

So we are connected!

He discovers this in Episode 1  Series 6 of Who Do You Think You Are Australia.

http://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/program/10?gclid=CjwKEAjwre6dBRC94d-Gma7g3wcSJACNatZedFxoCLkfbRNyTWh3wQKp_Kl9yCQjIdWIE4FnPjRNsBoCqqHw_wcB?__federated=1

 

My connection to my 12th great grandfather, Saul Wahl Katzenellenbogen, King of Poland for a day:

Relationship Chart Eli Moses Rabinowitz:Shaul Wahl  Katzenellenbogen
For more visit:
From my zaida’s shtetl of Orla to Suchowola, Andrew’s shtetl, both in the Grodno Guberna:
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To learn more on Shaul Wahl Katzenellenbogen, Brest and Yizkor Books visit:
and
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My visit to Grodno in 2012:

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With Tamara Vershitskaya, who has been on several episodes of Who Do You Think You Are and Tatiana, director of the Grodno Archives, who appears on Andrew’s episode.
Treblinka:
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Genealogy and Religion

Rabbi uses Genealogy in his Shabbat Drosha.

Rabbi Liebenberg of the Claremont Synagogue, Cape Town, South Africa, has used our Rabinowitz family genealogy and specifically my grandfather, as the theme of his Claremont Wynberg Good Shabbos Drosha.

 

My grandfather, Rev Nachum Mendel Rabinowitz, was born in Orla, near Bialystok in Poland in 1887. Orla was part of the Grodno Guberna. Records of Orla can be found in the archives in Grodno, Belarus.

 

Nachum Mendel moved to South Africa from Palestine in 1911 and became a leading religious figure in Cape Town. He was known for his many roles at the Constitution St and Vredehoek shuls and also was the secretary of the Bikkur Cholim for 42 years. Records and articles about Nachum Mendel can be found at the National, Gitlin and Kaplan Libraries in Cape Town. 

 

To read the Rabbi’s inspiring Drosha, go to:

 

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/iikys4ey50o7nu6/Nfs5nCXfNf

or click on three images below

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To read more about Orla, visit our kehilalink:

 

http://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/orla

 

Thanks

 

Eli Rabinowitz
Perth, Australia

 

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