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Margaret Tietz Nursing & Rehabilitation Center

Commitment, Compassion, Customized Care

This article originally appeared in the Queens Jewish Link.

Margaret Tietz Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Jamaica Hills was created to ease the tribulations of the Holocaust survivor population. Today, although no longer a nonprofit, the facility faithfully continues the tradition of hosting a moving Yom HaShoah Remembrance Day for Jewish Martyrdom and Heroism Service. The annual program was held this past Monday morning, May 6, in the center’s shul. Those gatherings mourned the six million brutally murdered by the Nazis.

Rabbi Yossi Blesofsky of Chabad NE Queens began the solemn event with a heartfelt Kayl Maleh Rachamim, beseeching Hashem to bring the souls of the departed to their place in the next World. For Rabbi Zavel Pearlman, Spiritual Guide of the center, Yom HaShoah never had as much meaning as this year. Privileged to be born into a family that was already in America in the late 1930s, the rabbi was often uneasy speaking of the unfathomable time his family long escaped. The rabbi ascertained a dual purpose for the annual remembrances. First is to reflect on the history, and second for the hope that lay in the future. When thinking of the past, we stand as the survivors able to mourn those who were lost and ensure that we have a period of reflection for our ancestors. “The tragedy that befell our people was truly unprecedented where one third of our people were destroyed, noncombatants who were just innocent people haunted down and killed. For the future, we pray that no such massacre should ever occur to any other race.”

An elderly man wearing a suit and tie speaking at a podium in front of a table with several white candles. A bookshelf with books and several seated people are visible in the background.

In his address, Rabbi Blesofsky reminisced on the recent holiday of Pesach. “Never before has there been an important day like today as this year since the Shoah. In the past, we reminisced, thought, remembered the atrocities of the hooligans; this year we lived them.” Rabbi Blesofsky took the residents through Israel’s many accolades and then compared Israel’s Jews to the number of Americans and revealed that should October 7 have happened here, 66,000 Americans would have perished.

Rabbi Blesofsky urged all not to be silent like Job had been in Egypt when Pharaoh asked how to deal with the Jewish people. Rabbi Blesofsky spoke of a peer who does business in the South and related that Middle Americans are squarely behind Israel. But unfortunately, they are the silent majority, silenced by tri-state area protestors who have been gaslighting, forgetting that terrorism, not Israel, and the complicity and support for this ridiculous and evil attack, are at fault.

Rabbi Daniel Pollack, Jewish Liaison to Congress Member Grace Meng, was honored with reciting the kaddish prayer in part due to the recent loss of his beloved mother, who spent her final weeks at the facility, adding that “we say kaddish on a national level, for the Nation of Israel.” With emotion, as he sought a level of a closure, Rabbi Pollack had in mind all who were lost during the Holocaust and prayed for an end to all sorrow. “The pain is too great. It is a prayer to G-d that He should redeem us and give us the facility to be able to live in peace.”

An elderly woman in a wheelchair lighting a white candle on a table, assisted by a man standing beside her. Another person stands by with a paper in hand.

Gabor Gross, a Hungarian-born survivor, was raised in the country’s second largest city, Debrecen. In 1944, as the war raged, Gabor was a mere 9 years old.

Today, as Gabor stands beside his beloved wife Judith, he is 89 years proud. For many years after the war, Gabor shied from sharing the difficult details. As the years progressed, Gabor slowly opened up, and now, with great emotion, speaks of the time like it was yesterday. He mentioned a period when new laws were enacted against Jews and businesses could only get very minimal merchandise, if any at all. The Jewish children were banned from colleges, and no Jew was allowed to receive government assistance.

In 1956, at the age of 21, Gabor, dressed in a Hungarian army uniform, experienced a revolution. His father also served in the army at the time, but instead wore civilian attire. With little to do, Gabor approached the office in the City Hall, “just to hang around.” Within a few minutes, he was summoned over, handed a machine gun, a truck with 30 civilian men, and instructions to travel 35 miles to a small town where there was a bullet factory. Meanwhile, when it was time to change guards, Gabor inquired of the leader how the town faired. Gabor was told that things were quiet and only a single Jewish family – the Moskowitz’ – with two sons, remained. Not knowing of his Jewish blood, Gabor felt terrible inside, but saw the fear in the men who dreaded a repeat of 1944. “The next day I went to the factory where I was a decorated worker and found myself amongst people with whom I had working before enlisting in the army.” When he asked how things fared, he was told of the plan to rid the region of the communists followed by the Jews. “But you don’t have to be afraid; you are different,” Gabor was told. Proud that he was a Jew, Gabor returned home, sat with his mother and brother, and they made a unified decision to leave their homeland. “My brother and I escaped from Hungary and came to the best country in the world, the United States of America.”

An elderly woman in a wheelchair, assisted by a man and a woman, lighting a candle on a table with several white candles. Other elderly women in wheelchairs are seated and observing in the background.

Looking back on March 1944, the German army occupied Hungary, and soon ordered every Jew to wear the yellow star of David on their chests, forced the Jews into a fenced-in ghetto where there was a very short supply of food supply. A month later, the Jews were moved outside of the city to a brick factory and some two weeks later jammed upwards of 90 Jews into a cattle wagon where they were trapped without food or water. It was only when the army entered from all corners of Austria that the Jews were let out where Gabor and the other Jews sat on the grass beside the railroad tracks. Australian farmers soon came with two trucks and picked up about 50 people that they took to their farm in Merkendorf as workers. The majority of those on the train, roughly 1000 to 1,500 Jews, were sent to Auschwitz, where most perished. By the end of the fall, when the farm work concluded, the group was shipped off to Auschwitz. Gabor, along with his brother and mother, survived the concentration camps of Ravensburg and Bergen-Bergen until they were liberated by the English army on April 15, 1945.

Gabor made it clear that the America of today is not the same country where his grandfather arrived in 1913, not the America that he came to in 1956 with his brother. “Until recently, most American Jews believed that the world’s antisemitism only occurred in Europe.” Gabor noted how the shootings in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018, six months later in California, the Jersey City grocery shooting, and ongoing assault against Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn has changed everyone’s thinking. “Is American different?” questioned Gabor. “When one of us get hurt, we all get hurt. I lost my grandmother, uncles, aunts, and many cousins in Auschwitz.”

Two men in traditional Jewish hats and suits lighting a candle together on a table with several white candles. An elderly woman in a wheelchair and other people are visible in the background.

As is customary at the center, six candles are lit in memory of different populations and aspects of the Jewish people. Gabor and Judith lit in memory of the helpless infants, children, and teenagers who were cut down like trees before their time, before they had a chance to experience life. Resident Rachel Kahan, a survivor, lit the second candle is memory of all the mothers who died with their children in their arms. Survivors Evelyn Friedman and Elizabeth Menkes lit the third candle in memory of all the mothers and fathers who were cruelly separated from their families. Rabbis Pollack and Blesofsky, who each lost a parent this past year, lit the fourth candle in memory of all the scholars, teachers, and rabbis, who were the first to be seized. Rabbi Mayer Waxman, Executive Director of QJCC, lit the fifth candle in memory of the heroes of the resistance who fought the Nazis. Linda Spiegel, Public Affairs Director for the center, lit the final candle in memory of the martyrs and righteous gentiles who gave their lives to help their brothers and neighbors.

Rabbi Blesofsky then led the crowd in a rendition of “Ani Ma’amin” and “Hatikvah,” as others lit memorial candles as an everlasting memory.

A man lighting a candle on a table with six white candles, while a woman in a blue dress reads from a paper. Other people are seated and observing in the background
A group of seven people standing together in front of a bookshelf filled with books, inside a room with beige walls and a high ceiling. Three men are wearing traditional Jewish hats and suits, while the others are in formal attire. One elderly woman is using a cane.

We shall never forget.

Thank You!

Thank you for making our Shul Dedication and Hachnasat Sefer Torah such a wonderful celebration! For those who attended, thank you for being a part of our special day. For those that couldn’t make it, I hope you can come by and tour our beautiful shul in person very soon. Thank you for being a part of our special simcha and a cherished part of the Margaret Tietz community!

If you would like to still donate to Moshav Naveh’s critical security fundraiser and help this wonderful settlement get the security they desperately need:

A thank you message from the Margaret Tietz Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, expressing gratitude for the attendees of their Shul Dedication and Hachnasat Sefer Torah celebration, with contact information and donation details included. Several photos of the event are shown, including a group photo of attendees and scenes from the celebration.

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