Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Secret Freedom Train for the Jews and the Chanuka Dreidel

Boasting Versus Sharing

It's important to differentiate between boasting and sharing your successes with people who sincerely wish you well and enjoy your success. Children especially have a strong need to show their parents that they have been successful. This is a way they build their self-image. Parents can encourage them to be grateful to Hashem for their success, building gratitude and balanced modesty

Love Yehuda Lave
The Chanukah Dreidel – Symbol of Life's Spinning Wheel
Published: Monday, November 25, 2013 10:53:43 PM
By Rabbi Efriam Sprecher
Chanuka commemorates our victory over the Syrian-Greeks and the Hellenists – Jews who betrayed their own people in order to curry favor with the Gentiles. Not much has changed in this respect in almost 2200 years. The battle continues. We cleaned up and purified the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple), but were we truly liberated? The Greeks were ousted from our land, but were they ousted from our minds? What light did the Menorah provide that proved that the battlefield victories warranted an annual celebration for the remainder of Jewish history, despite the Holy Temple's destruction?
Our Sages make a strange statement about the Greeks. They inform us that Greece – a nation noted for its scholars, wisdom, and academics – is the image of darkness (Bereishit Rabbah 2:4). We, a people with great appreciation for the intellectual, find this baffling. The Bal- Shem Tov provides an explanation that is as simple as a dreidel of Chanuka.
All of creation is a rotating wheel, a dreidel. Things constantly change, cycle, revolve and become transformed. This is because all things, no matter what they are made of, have one root. Before they manifest as they are, they pass through an interface known as "hyle" (Ramban on Genesis 1:1). A person's roles also change over time, providing and dominating one day, receiving and following the next. Nations, too, rise and fall.
Why do we play with a dreidel on Chanuka? Because – like Chanuka, the dreidel parallels the concept of the Beit HaMikdash, which spun things around in a number of ways. It manifested the concept of the revolving wheel by being the home of the Shekhina while its design was simultaneously engraved on high (Tanchuma, Pikudey 1; Zohar 1:80b).
Additionally, it somehow limited the Divine presence of a transcendental G-d to a physical space. As Shlomo Hamelekh put it, "Behold the Heavens, and the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain You, how much less this Temple?!" (Kings I 8:27).
Furthermore, it is impossible to rationally explain how flesh-and-blood human beings can influence spiritual realms and how a sacrificial animal can produce "a sweet savor" (Genesis 8:21, Exodus 29:18) to G-d. Yet, G-d did constrict His presence to the Beit HaMikdash and did accept sacrifices as "a sweet savor." By doing so, G-d debunked the Greek model of rational philosophy, with the Beit HaMikdash – as we do with the dreidel.
The Greeks are "darkness" because the rational mind (or rather, the insistence to be rational always), limits one's possibilities. One becomes stuck, "engraved on the horn of an ox," and one can no longer think out of the box. As Jews, we must always bear in mind that G-d has reasons that our Reason cannot know. As G-d says "For MY thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not MY ways." (Isaiah 55:8). This is why we dare not despair, even in the longest darkest, tragic periods of personal and national life. This is what enabled the Maccabees to undertake the struggle to fight the spiritual darkness against all odds.
The essential quality of the ultimate Redemption which we await is that of the Beit HaMikdash, the revolving wheel, the dreidel, when we will see and know that, in fact, all is one; that G-d is One and G-d's Name is One (Zechariah 14:9). May we soon see the arrival of the Mashiach, the rebuilding of the Holy Temple and the redemption of the Jewish People. 

The Leica is the pioneer 35mm camera. It is a German product - precise,
minimalist, and utterly efficient. Behind its worldwide acceptance as a
creative tool was a family-owned, socially oriented firm that, during
the Nazi era, acted with uncommon grace, generosity and modesty.
E. Leitz Inc., designer and manufacturer of Germany's most famous
photographic product, saved its Jews.

And Ernst Leitz II, the steely-eyed Protestant patriarch who headed the
closely held firm as the Holocaust loomed across Europe, acted in such
a way as to ea rn the title, "the photography industry's Schindler."

The 'Leica Freedom Train'

As soon as Adolf Hitler was named chancellor of Germany in 1933, Ernst
Leitz II began receiving frantic calls from Jewish associates, asking
for his help in getting them and their families out of the country.
As Christians, Leitz and his family were immune to Nazi Germany's
Nuremberg laws, which restricted the movement of Jews and limited their
professional activities.

To help his Jewish workers and colleagues, Leitz quietly established
what has become known among historians of the Holocaust as "the Leica
Freedom Train," a covert means of allowing Jews to leave Germany in the
guise of Leitz employees being assigned overseas.

Employees, retailers, family members, even friends of family members
were "assigned" to Leitz sales offices in France, Britain, Hong Kong
and the United States .

Leitz's a ctivities intensified after the Kristallnacht of November
1938, during which synagogues and Jewish shops were burned across

Before long, German "employees" were disembarking from the ocean liner
Bremen at a New York pier and making their way to the Manhattan office
of Leitz Inc., where executives quickly found them jobs in the
photographic industry.*

Each new arrival had around his or her neck the symbol of freedom - a
new Leica.

The refugees were paid a stipend until they could find work. Out of
this migration came designers, repair technicians, salespeople,
marketers and writers for the photographic press.

Keeping the story quiet

The "Leica Freedom Train" was at its height in 1938 and early 1939,
delivering groups of refugees to New York every few weeks. Then, with
the invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, Germany closed its borders.

By that time, hundreds of endangered Jews had escaped to America,
thanks to the Leitzes' efforts. How did Ernst Leitz II and his staff
get away with it?

Leitz Inc. was an internationally recognized brand that reflected
credit on the newly resurgent Reich. The company produced range-finders
and other optical systems for the German military. Also, the Nazi
government desperately needed hard currency from abroad, and Leitz's
single biggest market for optical goods was the United States.

Even so, members of the Leitz family and firm suffered for their good
works. A top executive, Alfred Turk, was jailed for working to help
Jews and freed only after the payment of a large bribe.

Leitz's daughter, Elsie Kuhn-Leitz, was imprisoned by the Gestapo after
she was caught at the border, helping Jewish women cross into
Switzerland. She eventually was freed but endured rough treatment in
the course of questioning.

She also fell under suspicion wh en she attempted to improve the living
conditions of 700 to 800 Ukrainian slave laborers, all of them women,
who had been assigned to work in the plant during the 1940s.

(After the war, Kuhn-Leitz received numerous honors for her
humanitarian efforts, among them the Officier d'honneur des Palms
Academic from France in 1965 and the Aristide Briand Medal from the
European Academy in the 1970s.)

Why has no one told this story until now?
According to the late Norman Lipton, a freelance writer and editor, the
Leitz family wanted no publicity for its heroic efforts. Only after the
last member of the Leitz family was dead did the "Leica Freedom Train"
finally come to light.

It is now the subject of a book, "The Greatest Invention of the Leitz
Family: The Leica Freedom Train," by Frank Dabba Smith, a California-born Rabbi currently living in England.

Thank you for reading the above, and if you feel inclined as I did to pass it along to others, please do so. It only takes a few minutes.




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