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Coming back home...

Friday, 2 January, 2015 - 12:22 pm

Yesterday I had one of the most powerful meetings since I came to Victoria and I am very happy to share it with you.

Through a very interesting chain of events I was told that an older Jewish woman just moved to the Island and that contacting her may be a positive thing.  After a short while I went to see Elise, who was living with her son and family by the Sidney waterfront.

Elise.jpgI just sat down and she started directly to tell her life story, as if she was waiting a long time to share it.  She was born in the mid 20s to an observant Jewish family in Paris.  At age 13, shortly after the war broke out, she was taken to a concentration camp, and eventually she arrived at Auschwitz.  She went into the gas chambers, but moments before hundreds of Jews including her immediate family were gassed, she and another girl were taken out and her life was saved. 

I looked at her arm and saw the numbers which were tattooed onto a young girl's arm at that bloody death camp.  This was the first time since I came to the Island that I saw this humiliating sign.

She went through 5 years of the worst physical and emotional horror one can imagine, and finally in April 1945 she was liberated from Bergen Belsen. She ended up marrying an English solider of the British 11th Armoured Division who liberated the camp. 

Since them Elise lived in small towns in the UK and in Canada and never got involved with Jewish people or community. "For the last 70 years the only Jews I saw were my eight children".

I told Elise that it was not too late to reconnect, and that there was to be no expectation of her. "We consider you a hero of our time and a member of our family", I said.  Elise was moved to tears, as she was waiting for decades for an opportunity to reconnect with Jewish life.

Tomorrow she'll join us in our Shul for Shabbat Services, and we will all welcome Elise to Shul for the very first time since her pre-war childhood.

Comments on: Coming back home...

Michael Friedman wrote...

Wish that I were there to greet her. Back as soon as I can make it.

Iris wrote...

What a moving story. Welcome home Elise!

Don/Nadav Morris wrote...

BH., I'm taken deep into my heart...
Welcome Elsie!!
I will be returning next Shabbos to Victoria.
Looking forward to meeting and greeting Elsie!

lorna denning wrote...

What a touching tale - Rabbi, you are a very caring and kind human being!


lorna denning wrote...

What a touching tale - Rabbi, you are a very caring and kind human being!


lindy shortt wrote...

We will look forward to meeting Elise and her children, IYH, in the very near future.

What courage Elise must have and how wonderful it is that you and she found each other!

May her years in Victoria bring only comfort and release from all of the hardships she endured.