Jews who don't know they are Jews
Jews who don't know they are Jews

Seventy years ago, Jews throughout Europe were running for their lives, trying to escape the Holocaust.

Many parents faced serious dilemmas involving how to save their children, how to ensure continuity, in the face of a cruel enemy. They worried about how to keep them from being led off to the death camps. The greatest dilemma was whether to cut their children off from them and perhaps even from their people.

Many families who began hearing rumors of death camps were faced with an unbearable dilemma. In the end they decided to save the lives of their children, without knowing what would become of them, and accepted the help of local Christian families who agreed to provide cover for their tiny children.

We're talking about thousands of children, or more. Children who would never again see their parents, who were forced to leave the warm, supportive hothouse in which they grew up and adopt a new identity. David became Johann, Shaul was suddenly Franz, Yaakov turned into Henri.

The vast majority of these parents didn't survive the Holocaust. Thousands of children were left behind. Even those who did survive were often blocked in their attempts to retrieve their children by elements who were convinced that it was "in the best interest of the child" for him to continue to be raised as a Christian.

As a result of all this, there are thousands of Jewish children – now adults – who don't know they are Jewish. They were stolen from their parents and, chiefly, from their people.

Yad L'Achim has teamed up in a special collaborative effort with Harav Kimmelman, a 90-year-old Jerusalemite, to launch a search for these lost Jews. With very limited resources but unlimited desire and determination, Harav Kimmelman began searching through ancient archives, questioning residents in Europe, and poring over maps. The efforts are paying off, and he is succeeding in reaching people who had no idea they were Jewish with a vitally important message:  'Know that you are a Jew.' "

The Admor Rav Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch (Chabad) wrote to the Dutch royalty regarding the children who weren't returned to their families or people. He stressed in his letter that from the Jewish point of view, the spiritual murder committed by those who refused to release the children was worse than the physical murder committed by the Nazis. This is because in Judaism, the spirit is more important than the body.

Harav Kimmelman and Yad L'Achim are not asking for anything from the governments in France, Holland, Poland, Belgium and elsewhere in Europe. All this 90-year-old Jew from Yerushalayim wants is to ensure that these children won't end their lives without knowing that they're Jewish.

Their parents are crying out to us from the Heavens that we not allow the theft of their children to continue, that we not allow the horrors of the Holocaust to continue among these children and their descendants.

It is a moral and Jewish imperative that we not give in, until the last child hears the words, "Know that you are a Jew."

Rav Shmuel Lifschitz is one of the heads of Yad L'Achim.