Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Hanukkah reunion

Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, begins December 6. It has special meaning this year for Michael Hochberg, 77, of Haifa, Israel. During a month-long visit to the United States, he reunited Wednesday with Krystyna Jakubowska, 86. She lives in Warsaw, Poland, and once saved his life.The reunion was organized by the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous.

In 1942, when Polish Jews were herded by Nazis into the Warsaw Ghetto, 4-year-old Michael was smuggled out by friend and given to the Jakubowska family for safekeeping. During German occupation, Poles who hid Jews faced certain death.

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Michael never saw his parents again, but Krystyna, then a teenager, pretended he was her little brother. For two years she shared her rations with him and made sure he only went outside at night. Both Krystyna's parents died during German occupation, but only after the war did she turn him over to a Jewish orphanage where he was claimed by a relative. Today Krystyna has five grandchildren and Michael has eight, but he never forgot what she did for him, and made sure she was recognized as a Righteous Gentile Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, the World Center for Holocaust Research and Documentation, in Jerusalem. Happy Hanukkah!

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