Hope you’re having a great day.
This Torah Minute is about someone who has always been an important part of my life.
My Uncle Jack Ratz.
There was one thing about him that was unique in our family.
My parents and my aunts and uncles were all born and raised in America.
But Uncle Jack was “European”.
His native tongue was Yiddish. And he spoke English with an accent.
Other than that, he was just Uncle Jack.
Always with a smile. Always with a kibitz.
I will never forget our family Seder.
After we sang all the traditional songs?
Uncle Jack would teach us the Yiddish version.
He would sing it over and over with so much joy.
… As a kid, I had no reason to think that my uncle’s life was any different than mine.
Which brings me to why I am telling you about him.
Today is a very special day to Uncle Jack.
It’s the 65th anniversary of …
His liberation from the concentration camps.
My uncle grew up in Riga, Latvia. He’s one of the very few survivors of the Riga ghetto.
And he spent his “teenage years” in more “camps” than I can remember.
He’s also one of the very few who survived a concentration camp called Stutthof.
He was on a “death march” when the Russian Army liberated him on March 10th, 1945.
… In 1998, Uncle Jack visited Riga and went to see the city’s Holocaust Museum.
The tour guide pointed out a row of pictures of teenagers who perished in the Holocaust.
Imagine his surprise when he noticed the last picture in the row.
A heart breaking picture of a young man. Head shaven. Lifeless eyes.
With a large “# 281” attached to his shirt.
… I think back to those family Seders. To my Uncle Jack singing, his face beaming!
It was maybe 18 years after that picture was taken.
I think of his heart of gold. How he has devoted his life to helping other people.
About his pride in studying Talmud with his grandson.
To the Nazis he was “#281”. Another Jew stripped of his humanity before being gassed.
But Jack Ratz outlived them.
He’s testimony to the Jewish spirit that the Nazis were not able to destroy.
And I am very proud to be his nephew!
All the best,