Rabbi Leopold (Yekutiel Yehudah) Greenwald (1888-1955) was born in Transylvania and immigrated to the United States in 1924. For almost thirty years, he was the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Jacob of Columbus Ohio. Rabbi Greenwald had participated in the Rabbi’s march on behalf of European Jewry in Washington D.C. on October 6, 1943
During the First World War, Rabbi Greenwald served in the army of Austria-Hungary. Initially exempt from army service on account of his status as a Rabbi, he nonetheless volunteered out of patriotism and a sense of appreciation to Austro/Hungarian Emperor, Franz Joseph, who had shown leniency towards the Jews. He enlisted, served as a common soldier and was wounded by a bayonet receiving a scar below his eye. He then contracted malaria and when released from the hospital became a telegrapher. He also served as a chaplain.
Among the many volumes Rabbi Greenwald authored was Sefer Zichronot, (Book of Remembrances), which detailed his experiences during the war.
In Sefer Zichronot, Rabbi Grinwald related the following story that was told to him by a soldier in the sick ward.
A man was married for eight years and the union had not yet produced a child. The soldier prayed constantly, went to Tzaddikim, (righteous individual Jews) and attended the circumcisions of other children in the hope that his prayers and deeds would produce results. When released on furlough, he visited a Tzaddik who informed him that his wife would soon conceive.
When his wife did indeed became pregnant shortly afterwards, rather than sharing the euphoria, the couple’s marriage became turbulent as they incessantly fought over whose parents the child should be named. The debate raged and became heated.
While on the front, he had just received a letter from his wife who implored him that the child should be named after her deceased father Yaakov to which he would not consent. As he related this news to a friend, a bullet struck and mortally wounded him. In agony, he told his friend to instruct his wife that the baby should not be named after his father or his father in law, but after him.
Rabbi Greenwald attended the Brit of the child who was named, “Chaim Dovid ben Chaim Dovid”
Larry Domnitch is the author of The Impact of World War One on the Jewish People, (Second Edition), recently released by Urim Publications. He lives with his family in Efrat.