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Shabbat Bulletin - October 8, 2016


Moses summoned all Israel and said to them:

Surely, these commandments which I urge upon you this day are not too baffling for you, nor are they beyond reach.

They are not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?”

No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it.

See, I set before you this day life and prosperity, death and adversity.

Shimon Peres (1923 - 2016)

Rebel with a cause.

Make shul and Judaism an important part of your lifestyle

Please read the (printed) special High Holiday Bulletin with its special
messages from our President Jeff Shabes, our Rabbi Eli Courante and our Cantor Marcel Cohen.

The Lodzer Music Festival.

Hope to see you all after the high holidays on Sunday, October 30 at 7 PM.

Meanwhile, check out the videos from our “Sundays at 7” series on YouTube

  1. The History of Klezmer Music - Raisa Orshansky and Viktor Kotov

  1. Where Does that Tune Come From? - Charles Heller

  1. The Songs of the Yiddish Theatre - Faye Kellerstein

  1. Jewish Music of North Africa - Cantor Aaron Bensoussan


Happy Birthdays to:

Oct. 1  Arlene Moshe
Oct. 3  Arie Epstein
Oct. 6  Etia Malinowski
Oct. 6  Frieda Walton
Oct. 7  Irv Spitzen

Oct. 9 Nina Rubin


Oct. 12  Allan & Susan Hoffer


Oct. 1  Pesa Katz, mother of Reisa Grunberg
Oct. 1  Helen Yellin, mother of Susan Yellin
Oct. 3  Channa Baila Koplowitz, mother of Israel
Oct. 3  Mordechai Koplowitz, father of Israel
Oct. 3  Ruth Shulman, mother of Karyn Drewnowsky
Oct. 5  Solomon Kliger, father of Irene Szweras
Oct. 6  Maxwell Harris, father of Helen Gould
Oct. 6  Charles Richmond, father of Sheldon
Oct. 6  Helen Rutkowski, mother of Ida Sidenberg
Oct. 7  Rose Sidenberg, mother of Allen

Oct. 8    Al Grunberg, father of Rick
Oct. 9    Shirley Goldman, mother of Brian
Oct. 9    Rachel Waserman, aunt of Reisa Grunberg
Oct. 10  Dina Lew, mother of Sydney
Oct. 12  Al Golden, brother of Bluma Nemirov
Oct. 12  Simcha & Szeina Naiman,

              grandparents of Leon Pasternak

To the Jewish people  (Zalman Approved!)

You may say you have been oppressed and persecuted - that has been your power! You have been hammered into very fine steel and that is why you have never been broken.

(Lloyd George, 1925)



October 6



The Yom Kippur War

On Saturday October 6th, 1973, as all of Israel came to a standstill to observe the High Holiday of Yom Kippur, Egyptian and Syrian forces launched a surprise attack against Israel knowing she would be caught off-guard.



Oct. 8

6 Tishri

9:30 a.m.



Kiddush Lunch

This week’s kiddish is sponsored by:

The Lodzer Congregation

To sponsor a Kiddush

please call the office


Torah Times

Torah Reading: Triennial Year 3


31:1 - 31:30  (pg.  887)


Sabbath Shuva (pg.895)

Candle Lighting: 6:29 p.m. – Friday

Havdalah: 7:35 p.m. – Saturday

Pirke Avoth Discussion Group

with Jonathan Usher

Every shabbat, after the kiddush there is a vibrant discussion on ethics


Oct. 11

6:10 p.m.

Kol Nidre



Oct. 12

10 Tishri

8:30 a.m.

Yom Kippur

11:15 a.m.


3:30-4:45 pm



Rabbi Eli

4:45 p.m.

Mincha & Neila

Yom Kippur

ends 7:21 p.m.

Yom Kippur

Tuesday eve, Oct 11,
2016, and Wed., all day Oct. 12, 2016.

Kol Nidre and Day of Atonement

(fast and break the fast)



October 15

13 Tishri



9:12 AM

Led by

Frank Steiman

Please help us out by coming early…

We need a minyan to start!


9:30 AM

Kiddush Lunch

This week’s kiddish is sponsored by:


To sponsor a Kiddush

please call the office


Prayer is meant to be a powerful, relevant and meaningful experience.

Five minutes of prayer said with understanding, feeling, and a personal connection to the words and their significance means far more than five hours of lip service.


Oct. 16

Erev Sukkot

no services



Oct. 17

10 Tishri

9 a.m.


1st day



Oct. 18

9 a.m.


2nd day

Sukkot ends 7:11p.m.


Sukkot is a time to commemorate dwelling in temporary structures as guests of the Lord.

Feast of Tabernacles

6-stormBrewingOutsideThe Sukkkot_w250.jpg


Oct. 22




Prayer is meant to be a powerful, relevant and meaningful experience.

“Unfulfilled expectations lead to self-imposed frustrations.” Therefore, don’t expect to be “moved” by every prayer or to follow along with the entire service.



Oct. 23

9 a.m.

Ha Shannah Raba



October 24

9 a.m.

Shemini Atzeret

10:30 a.m.


Hoshanah Rabah and
Shmini Atzeret

4-Havatat Aravot.jpg

Eighth Day of Assembly

Havatat Aravot:

On the last day of Sukkot, Hoshana Rabba, we beat a bundle of willow branches (actually one is enough) on the floor. To prepare the ground for the rain to penetrate.

Falling just after Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret is the holiday on which Jews start praying for rain.

“On the eighth day you should hold a solemn gathering; you shall not work at your occupation.”


Oct. 24

6 p.m.

Erev Simchat Torah



Oct. 25

9 a.m.

Simchat Torah

Simchat Torah

ends 7:01 p.m. no evening services

Simchat Torah

Simchat Torah is the holiday that celebrates the conclusion of the yearly cycle of reading the Torah, after which we begin anew reading the Five Books of Moses, starting from the first chapter of Genesis.

Day of Celebrating the Torah



October 27

7:30 PM


Book Chat

with Cathy Zeldin


"Pumpkin Flowers" by Matti Friedman.

It is well worth the read; recommended by the Jewish Book Council.

The hill, in Lebanon, was called the Pumpkin; "flowers" was the military code word for casualties.

Part memoir, part reportage, part history, Friedman’s powerful narrative captures the birth of today s chaotic Middle East and the rise of a twenty-first-century type of war in which there is never a clear victor and media images can be as important as the battle itself.


October 29

27 Tishri



9:12 AM

Led by

Frank Steiman

Please help us out by coming early…

We need a minyan to start!


9:30 AM

Prayer is meant to be a powerful, relevant and meaningful experience.

Read through the prayers and slowly think about what you’re saying and don’t be overly concerned about being behind. Look, the worst that could happen is that you will fall behind, but don’t worry, they’ll probably announce the pages so you can always catch up.



October 30

7 PM




12 Heaton St.




The Jewish Role in Jazz

and the

Israeli Jazz Scene.

Presentation by:

Reuven Grajner


November 2
7:30-8:30 pm


Parsha of The Week


Hi All - Due to the Holidays throughout October, our Parsha of the Week class will be cancelled all month - resuming on Wednesday November 2 at 7:30. I wish you all a Hags Sameach and an easy fast. See you in shul!


with Judy Hazan

Join this lively group every Wednesday night at 7:30 PM at The Lodzer where we study the week’s sedra together.

Classes are informal and no prior knowledge or preparation is required.

The purpose of the class is to learn the story of the parsha, determine its most important elements and tie its morals and lessons into our daily lives.

This is open to the public and there is no cost.

For more information contact:

Judy Hazan 416-704-1693

November 2



The Balfour Declaration, written as a letter on November 2, 1917, from British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to British Jewish leader Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, pledged British support for a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. The declaration is one of the iconic documents in, and represents one of the great moments of, Zionist history.

“His Majesty's Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

Arthur Balfour


November 6

2 PM




12 Heaton St.




We Polish Jews:

The Troubled Holocaust Legacy

of Julian Tuwim, 1894–1953

Poet Julian Tuwim was among the first and most powerful literary voices of the Holocaust experience.

Born in Lodz, Tuwim was a leading Polish-Jewish poet during the 1920–30s. In 1944, Tuwim wrote an anguished lament and manifesto of murdered Jewry, ‘We Polish Jews,’ as a refugee in New York.

In Tuwim’s writing, identity, belonging, betrayal and memory coalesce in unexpected ways. This presentation will be given by Dr. Myer Siemiatycki, a professor in the Department of Politics & Public Administration at Ryerson University. Books will be available for purchase and author signing following the program.


Julian Tuwim in conversation with Sheldon Richmond about why he returned to Lodz after the Shoah.

Presented by Lodzer Centre Congregation

As part of:

Holocaust Education Week
November 2-9, 2016


November 6

7 PM




12 Heaton St.




The Golden Age of Cantorial Music.

Presentation by:

Cantor David Nemtzov


November 20

7 PM




12 Heaton St.




Jewish Music of The Middle East:

Part One.

Presentation by:

Cantor Aaron Bensoussan


November 27

7 PM




12 Heaton St.


All classes are on Sunday at 7 pm:

Free of charge.

Donations are welcome.

Refreshments will be served following

each presentation.

This project is funded

In part by the

Government of Canada


Jewish Music of Eastern Europe.

Presentation by:

Raisa Orshansky & Viktor Kotov



December 4

7 PM




12 Heaton St.




Jewish Music of The Middle East:

Part Two.

Presentation by:

Cantor Aaron Bensoussan


December 8

7:30 PM


Book Chat

with Cathy Zeldin

Black Widow-Daniel Silva_w200.jpg

A network of terror.
A web of deceit.
A deadly game of vengeance.

Legendary spy and art restorer Gabriel Allon is poised to become the chief of Israel’s secret intelligence service. But on the eve of his promotion, events conspire to lure him into the field for one final operation. ISIS has detonated a massive bomb in the Marais district of Paris, and a desperate French government wants Gabriel to eliminate the man responsible before he can strike again.


December 18

7 PM




12 Heaton St.




Israeli Music.

Presentation by:

Cantor David Edwards

Good News


Last Saturday when the visiting British Royal Family landed in Victoria, they were greeted by Canada's head of state Governor General David Johnston and his wife, Sharon. For this occasion Mrs. Johnson selected an elegant pair of shoes from a Canadian designer, who lives right here, right in Toronto, about a ten minute drive away, and is a source of naches to his mother Sylvia and myself. (Frank White)


Talk about a parsha packed with powerful messages!

Many consider the most beautiful passage in the entire Torah to be found in this week’s parsha.
"Surely, this mitzvah that I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, 'Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?' Neither is it beyond the sea... No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it."

The beauty of this mitzvah is that it is not explained – meaning that we can find our own personal meaning in it. Commentators have offered many ideas about its meaning –
Nahmanides says that the phrase refers to the entire Torah, and Seforno explains it as teshuvah--repentance and return. By pairing Torah, which at its essence demands that we pursue justice, and teshuvah, our capacity to right wrongs, we can understand this passage as a mandate to believe that we have an innate capacity to fight the status quo when it is unjust and create change in the world around us.

By telling us that "this mitzvah" resides within us--in our mouths and in our hearts--this passage acknowledges and strongly rejects the human tendency toward defeatism: to convince ourselves that change, hope, and progress are (not) beyond our grasp.

Resolutions and Revolutions - Shanah Tovah  (RE-inspired)

How do you win a battle? By not playing by the rules!

Be different. Be a rebel.

Nice people, (politicians included,) finish last. Are we being too politically correct?

When the rules interfere with your survival, (or a country’s survival,) choose survival.

When the rules block your inspiration and creativity, break them.

Foster personal, intellectual and spiritual growth by creating your own rules.

the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it

(Be a mensch - enjoy life and prosperity)


Pirke Avoth Perek 3 Mishnah 3

Rabbi Hananya ben T’radyon said: If two sit together and no words of Torah are spoken between them, theirs is a session of scoffers, of which it is stated, [Fortunate is the man who …] does not sit in the assembly of scoffers. But if two sit together and there are words of Torah uttered between them, then the sh’chinah, the Divine presence abides between them, as it is said: Then those who revered the Lord spoke with one another; and the Lord hearkened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who revered the Lord and who esteemed His name. Now [from this verse] I can derive our teaching only about two persons; from where can we learn that if even one person sits and devotes himself to Torah, the Holy One, blessed is He, determines a reward for him? From the verse: Though he sits alone and meditates in stillness, yet he takes [the reward] unto him.

Rabbi Hananya was burned to death by the Romans. “He saw clearly: though the forces of evil may win an earthly battle and conquer the physical Jerusalem, the spirit of Torah and its teachings would never perish. The eternal letters of the Torah, as well as the soul of the Jew, would remain unconquerable and eternal. Through the flames and terror of persecution, the words of Torah would live on.”

Rabbi Hananya might have meant that if Jews are subject to persecution that is a good reason for remaining silent or if they are working hard, perhaps that too is a good reason to remain silent, but otherwise if two Jews are together they should discuss Torah.

“… if two people are sitting and learning and there is no Torah studied in interchange between them because they prefer to study alone, then they are indeed scorners: they scorn one another. This is not the way of Torah.”

“What Rabbi Hananya’s  dictum could very well mean for us is an obligation to apply and reflect the ‘words of the Torah’ its values, its norms and laws, in our everyday social and business world. Speak indeed of business, but in your conversation reflect Torah ethics and justice; weave in its eternal verities.”

Question: Is it possible and desirable to be mindful of the Torah in everything we do in our day-to-day lives?

        “The psalmist contrasts sitting among letzim, scorners, with finding delight in the Torah of the Lord and meditation in His Torah day and night. These are two alternatives. If two people have the time and opportunity to study Torah and yet choose to ignore it, they are to be considered letzim, “scorners”. The letz is one who scoffs and mocks the Torah and all it teaches. And in a sense the person who simply ignores the Torah is also scoffing at it. For he is clearly saying by his actions: Torah does not have this urgency, this over-riding importance, this compelling claim on my time and my life. But when two people do discuss words of Torah, then the sh’chinah, the Divine Presence, dwells between them.”

“Should it be impossible for you to find a companion, then at least study by yourself. This too can be most worthy and beneficial.”

Part 2 of Mishnah 3.

“Tradition tells us that the three most precious blessings which the Almighty ever gave to Israel can be acquired only through suffering and sacrifice. The three are; Torah, the Land of Israel and the world-to-come. … There is no easy road to learning. … The Torah demands concentration, immersion into its full depth and totality. You must, as it were, lose yourself completely in Torah…. Torah is not simply a book of history or law, or a collection of inspired narratives. It is the Word of God. … it can be acquired only through hard labour, diligent devotion and agonizing perseverance through uninterrupted hours.”

Question: This raises the fundamental question of whether the Torah is written by God or written with God’s help, or by wise people. What should our reaction be in terms of time spent studying it and its value in each of the three scenarios?

“Similarly, the Land of Israel has never been given to the Jewish people as a gratuitous gift on a silver platter; nor will it ever so be given. We have possessed the land only when we have fought for it, worked for it, and died for it. We will be able to keep it only if we strive to maintain it in accordance with the principles of Torah.  

Question 1: Is governing Israel according to the principles of the Torah more important than ensuring that Israel is a multicultural democracy or defending the country?

Question 2: Should secular or religious law (including family law) be  dominant?

“As for the world-to-come, we have already an indication … that it is given to every Jew only as a potential reward. True, every Jew has a share in it, but you must earn it, develop it, and make it truly yours. Only by life-long loyalty to Torah observance and Torah values can we hope to gain immortal spiritual life.”

Question 1: Is heaven therefore reserved only for the ultra-orthodox?

Question 2: If we disagree, is it time to say that the Judaism that is practiced by the ultra orthodox be questioned?

Question 3: Is it the orthodox who will maintain Judaism in Israel?

“Man must take the study of Torah on himself as a veritable yoke. It is not easy to sit up during all hours of the night studying , It is not easy to deny yourself the pleasures of a relaxed social life and sit in a Yeshivah to study. But this is the only road to Torah.”

Question:  This seems extreme. Didn't God gave us pleasures of the  world for us to enjoy, and secular deeds or mitzvoth to be accomplished?

“ Visualize the conditions that the prophet describes. It is an age when people do not see the need for obedience to God or observance of the law. They find that they can be happy without it. The wicked are prospering; the irreligious are most successful. Wherein lies the benefit in being religious? The Jewish faith only seems to create hardships and hamper you in your climb to success.

Question: Is this the position of Western Jews today?

“Says the prophet: When these conditions come to pass, it is precisely the time for ‘those that fear the Lord’ to communicate with one another. Let the faithful gather for earnest conversation and mutual encouragement. They must establish with clarity and understanding their own Torah values, realizing that the compensation for righteous living is not of the moment. They must analyze the so-called success of the others, reveal how hollow it is, how impermanent, brief, evanescent.”

“When those that fear the Lord come together, the Almighty will notice those hardy ones who strike out against their environment and oppose the shoddy, deceptive values of their age… It will be encoded in a Book of Remembrance; your effort will not be wasted: it will have a permanent  effect for the good.”

Question: Does this apply to secular as well as religious acts?

“Under these conditions it is up to ‘those who fear the Lord’ to create their own milieu, to fashion their own environment.… We have our own self-contained environment of Torah, where the significant questions are being asked and the right answers are given. Every Jew must be a citizen of this Torah world first and foremost. … In true Torah discourse there is no attempt to overpower one another. Each yields to rational argument. Each holds himself open to the truth and tests his opinion on the anvil of his companion’s mind. “

“If one turns his head away from hearing Torah”, God will turn his head away from hearing your prayers.

Question1:  Does this make the participants  an elitist and insular group?

Question 2: It he talking about a study group like ours, or Jewish propensity to argue among ourselves without any solution to problems?

Torah vs. Democracy vs. Defence


(It’s complicated.)

Quotes of the Day

"If you understand the why and wherefore of what you learn, you do not forget it quickly." ~~ Talmud Yerushalmi, Berakot 5:1

"He who spares his words has true wisdom; and he who holds his temper is a man of sense." ~~ Proverbs (Mishle)17:27

"The nature of the community is but the sum-total of what there is in the individual." ~~ Yitzchak Levi Satanov

Haimishe Humour

Denny visited mama and papa.

He said: “Finally, I’ve found my bashert. Just for fun, I'm going to bring over three women and you guess which is “the one.”

Mama and Papa agreed.
The next day he brought three beautiful women who sat on the sofa and chatted with Mama and Papa over a little cake.

After they left, he challenged, "Okay, Guess which one I'm going to marry?"
“The one in the middle with the red hair,” his parents replied instantly.
"Right! But ... how did you know?" asked Denny, amazed.
Mama said, "Simple. Her, we don't like.”


Parsha of the Week - Vayeilech

Be Strong and Resolute, Be Courageous and Strong


In 1974, Bob Dylan (born Robert Zimmerman) released his now famous song "Forever Young." By that time Dylan was a father of four children and according to the lore of "Forever Young," he composed the lyrics as a blessing to his youngest son, Jakob. Despite the title, the song actually centers on Dylan's hopes for the kind of human being his son will grow up to become over time. In particular, he asks (prays?) as follows: “May you always be courageous / Stand upright and be strong.”

These lines, perhaps with Dylan's own knowledge, echo Moses’s words to Joshua as the former prepares, at God's command, to give over leadership of the people to Joshua. Twice in our parashah (Deut. 31:7, 23), as Moses get ready to deliver his final song to the people before he dies, he encourages Joshua to be "strong and resolute" (hazak ve'ematz, JPS translation) in stepping into the role of leader of Benei Yisra’el. If we compare Dylan's song with Moses’s words, we see that both speak about a legacy that these men would like to transmit to the next generation: The messages of each focus on the spiritual and moral qualities required to live and lead well in the world. And, it is worth noting, that doing so, for both Moses and Dylan, includes being blessed by God.

Whether Bob Dylan knew that the language of his song resonated with these biblical verses and he chose them deliberately is intriguing but not essential. Rather, what we can discover as students of Torah is that when we attune ourselves to the language of the Bible, we will often find its echoes in contemporary sources as well. Today's students of Torah enter into conversation with the Bible by revealing how its artistry reverberates through the eons—where the words of Moses and Bob Dylan meet. In doing so, we sustain the creativity of Torah as a living force in our era—one that can be drawn upon to inspire and guide the next generation.



The Bernard Betel Centre hosted a mini tour of the Jewish Area of downtown Spadina Ave. 6 of the 16 of us had some connection with the Lodzer. A nice bonus was that we were able to tour the inside of ‘The Kiever Synagogue.’ Check out the pics.

Daily Minyan

Sunday – Friday: 9:00 am

We alternate with Beth Radom

on Sunday - check the schedule

posted on the side door.

Run by Arthur Zins

includes Breakfast following.

Come Daven, Fress & Schmooze,

then join in on a walk.

Saturdays: Shabbat Service

Birkot ha-Shachar 9:12 AM

 - (Led by Frank Steiman)
Yishtabach 9:30 AM

includes Kiddush Luncheon

Cemetery plots for sale to members in good standing (three years minimum).

If you are a member (3 years or more) and want to buy a plot, the cost per plot is $2500.

If you know anyone wanting a plot - the person can pay three years' membership dues and then be entitled to buy a plot.

This is an opportunity to purchase before prices increase.

Please call Sarah Senior, Lodzer Office Administrator,

for more information and to order:  416-636-6665


Please consider sponsoring a kiddush, or contributing to the building, programming, or any specific interest fund, by phoning the shul office at


If anyone has tickets for any event that they would like to donate to the shul please let the office know. It is a simple way to raise money for our synagogue so please donate spare tickets and bid generously.

Lodzer Sisterhood Cookbooks

Great Gifts – just $20 each

Contact the Office at



Tree of Life or Seat Plaques

Remember family and friends by purchasing a leaf on our tree of life or a sanctuary seat plaque. Call the office at


Chesed Committee

Please call the shul office if you need support or if you know of one of our members who may need support. It remains confidential.


Lodzer committee

members needed!

Help is always needed at the shul. Volunteer for a committee – you’ll be appreciated! Just call the office – 416-636-6665 and put your name in. The committee Chairperson will contact you.

Office Hours

Monday through Thursday

9 am - 1 pm and 2 pm - 4 pm


9 am to 1 pm


Jeff Shabes, President

Harvey Storm

Jonathan Usher

Morry Nosak

Marilyn Richmond                                

Board Members

Joe Ber

Henry Epstein

Roz Greene

Judy Hazen

Rafi Remez

Frank Steiman

Arnie Yudell

Honourary Member

Leon Pasternak

Rabbi Eli Courante

Cantor Marcel Cohen

B’aal Koreh:

Harvey Bitterman

Gabbai: Arnie Yudell

Bulletin Editor:

Jonathan Usher


Charles Greene

Office Manager:

Sarah Senior


Who we are - Contact Info


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‘If I Sleep for an Hour, 30 People Will Die’


PARIS — It’s 1944, in occupied Paris. Four friends spend their days in a narrow room atop a Left Bank apartment building. The neighbors think they’re painters — a cover story to explain the chemical smell. In fact, the friends are members of a Jewish resistance cell. They’re operating a clandestine laboratory to make false passports for children and families about to be deported to concentration camps. The youngest member of the group, the lab’s technical director, is practically a child himself: Adolfo Kaminsky, age 18.

If you’re doubting whether you’ve done enough with your life, don’t compare yourself to Mr. Kaminsky. By his 19th birthday, he had helped save the lives of thousands of people by making false documents to get them into hiding or out of the country. He went on to forge papers for people in practically every major conflict of the mid-20th century.

Now 91, Mr. Kaminsky is a small man with a long white beard and tweed jacket, who shuffles around his neighborhood with a cane. He lives in a modest apartment for people with low incomes, not far from his former laboratory.

When I followed him around with a film crew one day, neighbors kept asking me who he was. I told them he was a hero of World War II, though his story goes on long after that. It remains painfully relevant today, when children are being bombed in Syria or boarding shabby boats to escape by sea.

Like most Westerners, I usually ignore their suffering, and assume that someone else will step in to help. But Mr. Kaminsky — a poor, hunted teenager — stepped in himself, during the war and then for many different causes afterward. Why did he do it?

It wasn’t for the glory. He worked in secret and only spoke about it years later. His daughter Sarah learned her father’s whole story only while writing a book about him, “Adolfo Kaminsky: A Forger’s Life.” The English translation comes out this week.

It wasn’t for the money, either. Mr. Kaminsky says he never accepted payment for forgeries, so that he could keep his motives clear and work only for causes he believed in. He was perpetually broke, and scraped together a living as a commercial photographer, he said. The wartime work put such a strain on his vision that he eventually went blind in one eye.

Though he was a skilled forger — creating passports from scratch and improvising a device to make them look older — there was little joy in it. “The smallest error and you send someone to prison or death,” he told me. “It’s a great responsibility. It’s heavy. It’s not at all a pleasure.” Years later he’s still haunted by the work, explaining: “I think mostly of the people that I couldn’t save.”

Mr. Kaminsky empathized with refugees partly because he was one himself. He was born in Argentina to Russian Jews who’d first fled Russia to Paris, and then been kicked out of France. When Adolfo was 7, the family, by then with Argentine passports, was allowed to rejoin relatives in France. “It was then that I realized the significance of the word ‘papers,’ ” he explained.

After dropping out of school at 13 to help support his family, he was apprenticed to a clothes dyer, a precursor to the modern dry cleaner. He spent hours figuring out how to remove stains, then read chemistry textbooks and did experiments at home. “My boss was a chemical engineer, and would answer all of my questions,” he said. On weekends he helped a chemist at a local dairy, in exchange for butter.

In the summer of 1943, he and his family were arrested and sent to Drancy, the internment camp for Jews near Paris that was the last stop before the death camps. This time, their passports saved them. Argentina’s government protested the family’s detention, so they stayed at Drancy for three months, while thousands of others were swiftly sent on to die.

Mr. Kaminsky remembered a math professor who had agreed to tutor him in the camp. “One day, when it was time for our classes, he wasn’t there. He hadn’t wanted to tell me beforehand that his name was on the list.”

The Kaminskys were eventually freed, but they weren’t safe in Paris, where Jews were under constant threat of arrest. Soon Argentines were being deported, too.

To survive they would have to go underground. Adolfo’s father arranged to get false papers from a Jewish resistance group, and sent Adolfo to pick them up. When the agent told Adolfo that they were struggling to erase a certain blue ink from the documents, he advised using lactic acid, a trick he’d learned at the dairy. It worked, and he was invited to join the resistance.

Mr. Kaminsky’s cell was one of many. His would get tips on who was about to be arrested, then warn the families, assembling new papers for them on the spot.

The group focused on the most urgent cases: children who were about to be sent to Drancy. They placed the kids in rural homes or convents, or smuggled them into Switzerland or Spain. In one scene from the book, Mr. Kaminsky stays awake for two nights straight to fill an enormous rush order. “It’s a simple calculation: In one hour I can make 30 blank documents; if I sleep for an hour, 30 people will die.”

Historians estimate that France’s Jewish resistance networks together saved 7,000 to 10,000 children. Some 11,400 children were deported and killed.

After the war, Mr. Kaminsky didn’t plan to keep working as a forger. But through his wartime networks, other movements got in touch. He continued forging papers for 30 more years, playing a small role in conflicts ranging from the Algerian war of independence to the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa to the Vietnam War, making documents for American draft dodgers. He estimates that in 1967 alone, he supplied forged papers to people in 15 countries.

I can’t vouch for every cause. Some of the rebel groups he supported used violence. And at close range, his stubborn idealism was no doubt maddening. He had two kids soon after World War II, but couldn’t tell them or his ex-wife about his underground work, so they didn’t know why he rarely visited. Girlfriends assumed he was absent because he’d been cheating. He was supposed to follow one woman to America, but never showed up, because he’d joined the Algerian resistance.

“I saved lives because I can’t deal with unnecessary deaths — I just can’t,” he told me. “All humans are equal, whatever their origins, their beliefs, their skin color,” he later added. “There are no superiors, no inferiors. That is not acceptable for me.”

In 1971, convinced that too many different groups knew his identity, and that he’d soon be caught and imprisoned, Mr. Kaminsky quit forging for good, and mostly made a living teaching photography. On a visit to Algiers he met a young law student, of Tuareg ancestry, who was the daughter of a liberal Algerian imam. They’re still married, and have three children.

The last time I saw Mr. Kaminsky, he showed me a photograph he took just after the liberation of Paris. It shows about 30 children who’d come out of hiding, and were hoping to be reunited with their parents.

He knows there are children in similar peril today, and that having the wrong passport can still cost your life. “I did all I could when I could. Now, I can’t do anything,” he said. Surely, though, the rest of us can.

Pamela Druckerman OCT. 2, 2016
The New York Times

(Checkout the video in the source story at the link above)


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