Jan 10, 2014

Strength of Character

Hamodia magazine had an article about Mrs. Ruth Ebstein, wife of a teacher of mine.  She and her husband were from Germany and survived the war.  He spent six years in Siberian labor camps.

From the age of 13 and on, Ruth experienced Kristallnacht, being sent out of Germany by her parents, living with a distant relative in France for two and a half years, living in an orphanage, and leaving with the other children for America via Spain and Portugal.  She was 15 and a half and on her own in an orphanage in New York and and was then sent to California.

"I may have been out of physical danger, but the spiritual danger was enormous.  It was so easy to be pulled in by the gashmius.  Out of the 75 Orthodox children who were on the ship with me, only ten remained frum.  Many simply had no one to guide them, for there were no religious communities [in California] back then."

Ruth attended Hollywood High School and found work.  She lived on fruits and vegetables for four years in order not to eat treif, even as she lived with Jewish people.  "The family I lived with went to temple, but they told me about a shul with a 'religious rabbi' a mile away.  I walked there every Shabbos, once in the morning for davening and again for seuda shlishis to hear the rabbi's inspiring dvar Torah and the zemiros sung by the old men."

What struck me as I read her account was the contrast between what she endured and overcame and the fragility of today's frum teenagers and their petty problems.  I am not talking about those with genuine hardships, but of the angst, i.e. emotional problems that come from not properly dealing with normal life.  Rabbi Benzion Shafier noted this as referred to in this post: here

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