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linia 2006-08-24 ROZAN - "Angels and Giborim". A commemorative essay

We invite you to read an essay, originally a letter, written by Mr Michael Traison. This short text commemorates Mr Efriam Ben Dor, the initiator of the Rozan cemetery restoration project.

by Michael Traison

Dear Michal,
In my interaction with non-Jews I am frequently asked whether we Jews believe in heaven and hell. For some of these people, these are not concepts but real places where their souls will reside as a reward or a punishment for their adherence or failure to adhere to the law, religious and secular. I tell them that I am no scholar, but remember well the lesson told to me as a little child in a yeshiva that we do believe in the afterlife but don't define it either by expectations of 70 virgins or fear of the traditional fire and brimstone. Instead we Jews believe that the reward for good life is a good life and the punishment for having lived a bad life is having lived a bad life.

Similarly I know we have a tradition of angels. (Indeed, I bear the name of one "who is like unto G-d"). I'm not quite sure about saints. The Jewish sainted are the deceased scholars and rabbis who have taught us lessons of torah throughout the ages. Our saints are "kedoshim", ones who are holy because they were slaughtered for their beliefs, for free speech and exercise of religion, for studying torah and being Jews. Our angels are the heroes of the Jewish people.

Strong and proud now, with our own state, we call them Geborim. Heroes. These are our saints and our angels. Ada Holtzman brought me to one five years ago.

Ada had written asking to meet me her and we arranged our first meeting at the Warsaw Marriott one Polish summer's day. She gave me a handwritten note from this Angel asking, no, kind of ordering me, to help him bring back into Jewish hands the Jewish cemetery of his shtetl Rozan, Poland. This Angel had a way of directing me so that I never really knew whether I was being asked or ordered. I just knew that when Efriam Ben Dor (Bendor) spoke I wanted to act. When he led, I wanted to follow.

There ensued a several year impossible oddysey to do the impossible: to pursuade some nice people in a very backward place to overcome their superstitions and prejudices and to participate in acknowledging that, as Yafa Eliach coined it, "there once was a place", a Jewish place, called Rozan. The impossible goals set by this Angel included purchasing from private hands the land under whose brown and barren soil lay the ancestors of this Angel, and the families of his neighbors and of his boyhood friends, most of whom, themselves, had no marked graves, but went up in smoke thru chimneys out of fires bulit by Germans and stoked by their abbetors.

If I failed to bring him regular news of progress, this Angel harassed me until I worked harder just to avoid his instant reminding and urging. If I forgot my role was now to be the point man to get the job done, he reminded me. Ada had brought us together spiritually. And soon we met in Israel: this Angel and his Malacha, your mother.

I remember that first dinner in Herziliya and I remember when you brought us together and drove us to the publishing house in Tel Aviv, where Efraim Ben Dor had worked. I remember how frail he was even then but how your mother and he played like teen aged lovers. I shall never forget the looks on each of their faces as they recounted the story of the poor little Jewish girl expelled from Germany and alone in Poland and this Angel taking her under his wing, sending her to kibbutz in Wysokie and then on to Palestine where she awaited his arrival a few years later just as the death knell rang out for the six million Kedoshim and the end of Rozan and hundred and hundreds of other "Rozans" throughout Poland and Europe. I had met an Angel.

Your mother was by then to ill to travel but together with Efriam Ben Dor, we gathered there, barely 27 months ago, on 31 May 2004, when the monument was unveiled, marking the end of the Rozan project. But there was no end. There couldn't be. Month after month I drove to Rozan and called to him on my cellular phone to reach him in Kfar Saba. I reported how fine the cemetery looked. How strong and proud. I lit a ner zikaron each time, in tribute to the souls of Rozan, but mostly in tribute to the soul of this Angel who was determined to give everlasting life to those souls by reclaiming the Jewish Cemetery and placing it once again in Jewish hands, as he pledged.

In doing so he created an everlasting life for himself. He set an example for all of us. He inspired many more such projects. And he gave us a chance to meet an Angel: a Gibor b'Yisrael.

Thank you Ada for bringing us together and thank you Michal for sharing your parents with us even for a short while.

His soul lives on forever. Baruch Dayan Emet.

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Recommended links
  The 'Synagogue' Center in Zamosc  
  "Preserving Jewish Heritage in Poland" vol. II  
  Adopt a Jewish cemetery in Poland  
  Revitalization of the synagogue in Przysucha  
  Chassidic Route  
  'To Bring Memory Back' educational program  
  NEW Brochure about Przysucha synagogue renovation project  
  NEW Brochure about FODZ  
  'Preserving Jewish Heritage in Poland' album  
  Revitalization of the synagogue complex in Krasnik  
  Anti-Semitism in Poland  

  Cemeteries database

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