Wednesday, / July 17, 2024
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Jew Meets Jew

By , New York, NY

Simon Gronowski was 11 years old when his mother pushed him off a train transport to Auschwitz, saving his life. His mother and sister were gassed upon arriving in Auschwitz, and his father, he says, died of a broken heart in 1945. 

The lawyer and jazz musician who lives in Belgium is visiting New York where he’ll play with Woody Allen at the Carlyle Monday night. Sitting in a Williamsburg café on Sunday, he struck up conversation with Rabbi Shmuel Metzger, of Chabad Beekman-Sutton on Manhattan’s East Side. Metzger introduced his children, Mendel and Chana.

It’s been a long time since Simon heard the name Chana.  

“That was my mother’s name,” he told the little girl, his tears welling up.

The Holocaust survivor inscribed a copy of his child-friendly memoir of survival, Simon, le enfant du 20e Convoi, or The Child of the 20th Convoy, and gave it to Chana.

As they got to talking, Rabbi Metzger asked him if he’d like to put on tefillin. 

Simon didn’t think so. He never had. Orphaned, with no parents or siblings before he turned 13, he had no bar mitzvah. Now he was reluctant.

“I’m not a good Jew.” 

“You’re the best Jew,” Metzger said.

They decided to speak again the following day. 

Monday morning, Simon invited the rabbi to meet him at the Carlyle at noon. 

With the rabbi’s help, Simon Gronowski, 82, wrapped tefillin for the first time in his life. 

And from some distant place the words came back: Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad.


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