Raanan Isseroff, Beis Moshiach
“This incredible act of kindness resulted in the senior Mr. Deutsch recovering his full health, thank G-d. Just one thing was left as a reminder of the war. His arm was constantly in pain and he had very limited range of motion which never left him.”
Friday night in the town of Efrat, after the meal, my host Rabbi Nissan Nachshon took me to a Shalom Zachar. It was Shabbos Bereishis, and for the first time I was visiting the shluchim in Efrat, Israel, Rabbi and Mrs. Nachshon.
The Shalom Zachor was in honor of the birth of Mr. Avrohom Deutsch’s grandson. Avrohom is a close friend of Rabbi Nachshon. Rabbi Nachshon is a Chevron native, son of the famous Sara Nachshon and her husband, the very famous artist Baruch Nachshon.
Efrat is a series of 5 communities spread over the tops of adjoining mountains. Efrat is not a small town, being spread over 5 or 6 kilometers. As such, we walked for what I estimated was about a half an hour, a distance not considered unusual in these parts.
Over hill and over dale, we hiked to the house of Mr. Avrohom Deutsch, an American originally from New Haven, Connecticut. In fact, most of Efrat is made up of Americans. I had the distinct feeling that we were in a bungalow colony in the Catskills. For these tenacious Americans transplanted their American communities to the mountain tops of Efrat.
It was a large crowd. After we sat at the Shalom Zachar for a while, after many divrei Torah and l’chaims, Avrohom looked at us and began talking about Lubavitch and how he and his father were very close to the Lubavitcher community in New Haven. Avrohom and his sister had attended the Lubavitch Day School in New Haven, which was (at the time) the only Jewish day school in New Haven. I sensed that Rabbi Nachshon and I were probably the only Lubavitchers at the table. Sensing a story, I asked: Perhaps you have an interesting story to tell us?
Mr. Deutsch got very excited and he told us: “I had a miracle happen!” He gave us all l’chaims, and now everyone was curious.
Our host became very emotional. His father was a survivor from the town of Kaliv in Hungary. (Kaliv or Kalov is the Jewish name; the town’s modern or official name is: Nagykallo). His family were Chassidim of the Kaliver Rebbe. During the war, the Hungarians and Germans formed the young Jewish men into work brigades. At some point during the war, a group of Jewish Hungarian boys, who had been pressed into one of these work brigades for the Germans, were force-marched 137 miles in the freezing cold and snow. Many died from exposure, exhaustion or a bullet.
Avrohom Deutsch’s Father was one of the marchers. As they marched, it was incredibly cold, so he asked one of the guards for a coat. The guard refused, telling him: “You are all going to be killed anyway. The sooner you die, the better off you will be.”
Somewhere along the way or perhaps at the end of the march, Mr. Deutsch senior was beaten almost to death, putting him into a coma and breaking his right arm near the elbow. His captors figured perhaps that he was dead, and so, by a miracle, they did not put their customary bullet into him.
Far from dead, the beating had put Mr. Deutsch into an unconscious state. As such, thinking Mr. Deutsch was dead, they left him there in the freezing cold in a pile of snow.
A non-Jewish nurse (as you’ll continue to read, it was no doubt Eliyahu HaNavi…) saw that he was alive. She pulled Mr. Deutsch out of snow, took him into a hospital and nursed him back to life. This incredible act of kindness resulted in the senior Mr. Deutsch recovering his full health, thank G-d. Just one thing was left as a reminder of the war. His arm was constantly in pain and he had very limited range of motion which never left him.
(Interestingly, after Mr. Deutsch fully recovered and was about to be discharged from the hospital, he tried to find the nurse who had saved him in order to thank her, but he could not find her. When he described her to other staff at the hospital, they said there was no such nurse at the hospital. Leading to the possibility that it was Eliyahu HaNavi.)
After the war, Mr. Deutsch and his wife Sarah moved to the United States and settled in New Haven, Connecticut.
Mr. Deutsch remained a committed Jew, but he was not a Chassid.
Mr. Deutsch had a brother-in-law (husband of his sister Vera and, interestingly, one of Mr. Deutsch’s teachers when he was a young boy in Kaliv) named David Davidovitch, who was the “Rosh Hamoetzah” (effectively, Mayor) of Emek Lod — the area in Israel that included both the town of Tzafariya (where Mr. Davidovitch lived) and Kfar Chabad. Tzafariya is located next to Kfar Chabad, just over the railroad tracks. One side of the tracks is the town of Kfar Chabad and the other side is Tzafariya.
Despite the tracks that divide, there’s a lot of warm feeling back and forth from both sides. At any given time one can find Tzafariyans davening in Kfar Chabad’s largest shul Beis Menachem. Being so close, the towns’ residents frequently visit each other and share in each other’s simchas despite one town being very Chassidic and the other “not-so-much”, being very Mizrachi-oriented.
Depending how you look at it, Tzafariya is really a part of Kfar Chabad. According to Tzafariyans however, it’s Kfar Chabad that’s really a neighborhood of Tzafaria. Separating the two towns is the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Railway tracks and train station. Depending on whom you ask, they might perhaps tell you that the others live on the “other side of the tracks”.
The area where Mr. Davidovitch was the Rosh Hamoetzah is the same area where my cousin Rabbi Noach Landsberg ‘שי is the Chief Rabbi.
Anyway, in 1973, just before the Yom Kippur War, Mayor Davidovitch was invited, as a representative of the area in which Kfar Chabad is located, to travel to New York and meet with the Rebbe.
Mr. Davidovitch visited with his brother-in-law Mr. Deutsch and Mr. Deutsch’s family in New Haven while he was in the United States and Mr. Davidovitch invited his brother-in-law to join him for his visit to the Rebbe. Mr. Deutsch senior knew very well what a Chassidic Rebbe is, having grown up in the court of the Kaliver Rebbe in pre-war Hungary as a young man.
Somehow (as I gathered between l’chaims) they both ended up at a farbrengen with the Rebbe at 770.
As they stood there packed like sardines in a room filled with thousands of Lubavitcher Chassidim (probably up in the air on a bleacher, and since this must have been in Elul or early Tishrei, I can assume it was especially full of visitors), Mr. Davidovitch got very excited and said to his brother-in-law: “Mordechai! Make a l’chaim!”
Mr. Deutsch had very limited movement of his arm. Every movement of the mangled joint brought on terrible pain, as the break had been somewhere near the elbow, a major nerve center.
“I can’t!” he protested. Mr. Davidovitch didn’t give up and continued urging him, with Mr. Deutsch insisting that he cannot and his uncle refusing to take no for an answer. Perhaps the surrounding crowd caught on. This part is not so clear. What is clear, is that somehow, a small cup of wine appeared from somewhere and was placed in Mr. Deutsch’s right hand.
With the help of those around him, the mangled arm slowly rose with its cup of wine. The pain was incredibly excruciating.
Up, up, up! Went the arm. Mr. Deutsch felt he could no longer stand the pain. As the cup went up, Mr. Deutsch looked towards the Rebbe. The Rebbe who had been looking around, looked at Mr. Deutsch. Mr. Deutsch looked at the Rebbe. And as the Rebbe looked at Mr. Deutsch, suddenly, the pain disappeared!
Back in Efrat, at our lovely Friday night Shalom Zachar, there on the top of a mountain in Efrat, Israel, our host Avrohom started crying. We all fell silent. We were crying along with him.
“My father,” he said, “never felt pain in that arm again.”
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