Contact Us

"This Is My Torah Scroll"

"This Is My Torah Scroll"

 Email

Henryk was very young in 1945, when the War ended and solitary survivors tried frantically to trace their relatives. He had spent what seemed to be most of his life with his nanny, who had hidden him away from the Nazis at his father's request. There was great personal risk involved, but the woman had readily taken it, as she loved the boy.

All the Jews were being killed, and Henryk's nanny did not think for a moment that the father, Joseph Foxman, would survive the infamous destruction of the Vilna Ghetto. He would surely have been transferred to Auschwitz -— and everyone knew that nobody ever came back from Auschwitz. She therefore had no scruples about adopting the boy, having him baptized into the Catholic Church and taught catechism by the local priest.

He told his son that he was a Jew and that his name was Avraham

It was Simchat Torah when his father came to take him. The heartbroken nanny had packed all his clothing and his small catechism book, stressing to the father that the boy had become a good Catholic. Joseph Foxman took his son by the hand and led him directly to the Great Synagogue of Vilna. On the way, he told his son that he was a Jew and that his name was Avraham.

Not far from the house, they passed the church and the boy reverently crossed himself, causing his father great anguish. Just then, a priest emerged who knew the boy, and when Henryk rushed over to kiss his hand, the priest spoke to him, reminding him of his Catholic faith.

Everything inside of Joseph wanted to drag his son away from the priest and from the church. But he knew that this was not the way to do things. He nodded to the priest, holding his son more closely. After all, these people had harbored his child and saved the child's life. He had to show his son Judaism, living Judaism, and in this way all these foreign beliefs would be naturally abandoned and forgotten.

They entered the Great Synagogue of Vilna, now a remnant of a past, vibrant Jewish era. There they found some Jewish survivors from Auschwitz who had made their way back to Vilna and were now rebuilding their lives and their Jewish spirits. Amid the stark reality of their suffering and terrible loss, in much diminished numbers, they were singing and dancing with real joy while celebrating Simchat Torah.

Avraham stared wide-eyed around him and picked up a tattered prayer book with a touch of affection. Something deep inside of him responded to the atmosphere, and he was happy to be there with the father he barely knew. He held back, though, from joining the dancing.

A Jewish man wearing a Soviet Army uniform could not take his eyes off the boy, and he came over to Joseph. "Is this child... Jewish?" he asked, a touch of awe in his voice.

"This is the first live Jewish child I have come across in all this time..."

The father answered that the boy was Jewish and introduced his son. As the soldier stared at Henryk-Avraham, he fought to hold back tears. "Over these four terrible years, I have traveled thousands of miles, and this is the first live Jewish child I have come across in all this time. Would you like to dance with me on my shoulders?" he asked the boy, who was staring back at him, fascinated.

The father nodded permission, and the soldier hoisted the boy high onto his shoulders. With tears now coursing down his cheeks and a heart full of real joy, the soldier joined in the dancing.

"This is my Torah scroll," he cried.

Abe Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League -- the Avraham in our story -- remembers this as his first conscious feeling of a connection with Judaism and of being a Jew.

Originally published in Kosher Spirit
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
35 Comments
1000 characters remaining
Tom Portland October 22, 2016

A touching story. However it reminds me that when we say, "Never Again", we need to mean it. Never allow a government to take away your personal right of self defense. Reply

Anna Scotland October 4, 2015

It's wonderful how the all-seeing intelligence called G-d/other returns his chosen people to where they should be. This story above is very touching. I also believe that the 'word'/'sound' vibration of the highest one brought everything into being as and when he chose. Reply

Michael Levy Johaneesburg SA September 26, 2013

Avraham story. I have tears in my eyes. Reply

Adam Karesky Los angeles, CA October 7, 2012

Thank You Thank you for sharing this beautiful true story of Jewish endurance and love. Reply

Barbara Jean Indio, CA...USA October 7, 2012

Avraham Story A beautiful story for a beautiful soul. May HaShem bless you for telling us his story. Reply

Tilly Boesche-Zacharow Berlin, Germany October 19, 2011

Thanks for this story, so full of hope, that some human beings can help, to bring together all people with good will.We all have only one G´d.
My English ist very bad, I cannot say all, what I have deep in my heart. But I hope you understand me, like I understood the story of little boy Avraham and this Jew in the russian uniform.
Chag sameach be
Reply

Debra Rock Creek, BC, Canada September 30, 2010

Avraham... Such a touching story, both versions, it's natural for the boy to have a struggle between faiths...and the loss of the lady who saved his life. But praise be to G-d that the boy survived and had his Dad and Jewish heritage back.
Jews are not better than gentiles, they just have different marching orders, different from others in that God has requested of us to not except forien gods and worship.
It does matter greatly that Jews live as Jews and the more Jewish babies born the better! We need to keep God's people strong and show the world that G-d is still with us. Faw too many Jewish children of all ages died at the hands of evil people, I feel sad for the ones who don't know they are Jewish, but take comfort in knowing that G-d knows them and understands. Reply

Anonymous Herrin, Il September 28, 2010

This story is so touching. It is the same story of our heavenly Father reuniting us to Him. And us to one another through Him. Reply

Anonymous Springfield, MA September 26, 2010

But he is still very conflicted.... My dad knew him well. Enough said. Reply

Dr. Harry Hamburger Miami, Fl. April 11, 2010

The philosopher went to the haberdasher for a hat
But the hat did not fit, his head was too fat.

His heart said, "perhaps it is because you are so smart",
Empty your head, and I can then play my part.

It is not what we know, or how much we say
A Jew is about faith, that should grow everyday.

A faith not based on how much we sow
It is belief in a G-d that we never can know

But we see in the world such a beautiful plan
Not created by chance, or the hands of a man

From words that G-d spoke the universe came
Once the Aleph was said things were never the same. Reply

Daniel oak park, mi April 9, 2010

Man in a Soviet Uniform The soldier in this story is my Grandfather. I grew up hearing this story. never knowing that this parallel story was being passed down as well.

yesterday, April 9 2010. Avraham and the soldier finally reunited after 65 years. Reply

Chanah Brooklyn, NY October 11, 2009

Song the song is called The Man from Vilna Reply

Ted Nickel Fenton, MI October 9, 2009

What about the Boy? My heart breaks every time I think about the injustice done to Jews in the Holocost and in Russia. Fathers love their daughters greatly but there is something between a father and his son that cannot be replaced by any other feeling. How proud, happy, greatful, honored, thankful to G-d for providing an escape route for his son. This should be the response no mater what religeon one is.
It appears by some of the comments above that some folks need to re-read their Torah from a different perspective. Yes, Jews have a religeon, but so do Muslims, Christians, Budhist, etc., but there should be a difference. Most of these other religions are willing to share their beliefs freely. When I read the Torah, I feel like G-d is blessing me personally. I see a bond between the Jews of Moses, David, and Solomons time I don't see now. Why is that?
Let's stop beating each other up about a very fortunate child, his dad, and an obviously greatful soldier and start living the Torah. Reply

jadimeh October 27, 2008

what's the song?? do you know what the song is called? Reply

Story put to song Miami, FL October 20, 2008

Journeys 4 This story has been put to song by Abie Rotenberg on Journeys 4. The song is very powerful and I recommend it to all. Reply

Anonymous Santa Monica, CA, USA October 19, 2008

Identity This is a beautiful story, one with a happy ending. I am happy for Abe Foxman that he was able to reclaim his Jewish identity and way of life. Reply

Dr. Harry Hamburger Miami, Fl. October 19, 2008

May all of our sons be living Torahs This story should remind all Jew, especially secular and non-affiliated that our children our the most precious gift to Judaism, and we must instruct them in Torah, so that they may become living, practicing, Jews, and thereby carry on our great tradition.

as it is said, "you shall teach it diligently onto your children" Reply

israel lima, Perú October 19, 2008

torah scroll was a fantastic story, if you are a jew your are a jew always Reply

Anonymous August 16, 2007

That was incredibly beautiful! Reply

Debbi Goldberg via chabadsantafe.com October 11, 2006

I told this story at our shabbat table and my children and husband are enjoying it immensly!! We all cried afterwards and I now read diffrent articals from chabad.org at our shabbat table.
thank you so much Mrs. Benjiman!! Reply

Kids Zone
Find Services
Audio Classes
Recipes
This page in other languages