At a recent wedding of Danny Freundlich (a JEM staff member) to Chana Sara Newfield, the My Encounter team heard about an uncle and aunt of the groom that had an amazing story with the Rebbe in 1940. At the wedding, Rabbi Yechiel Cagen, director of the My Encounter project, introduced himself to Rabbi Shlomo and Faygie Levy, and asked about their story. Two days later an interview was setup in the My Encounter studio in Crown Heights.

The Levys are Gerrer Chassidim and currently live in London, England. Faigy’s parents lived in Europe in the 1930s and like many Jews during that time, fled to Southern France in 1940 to escape the wrath of the Nazis. Faigy told us that her father didn’t speak much about the war years, but told her the following story:

While in Nice, France, Faigy’s father, Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh Lieberman befriended the Rebbe and would often walk with the Rebbe to Shul. At that time, Southern France was ruled by the Vichy Government – a Nazi puppet government that was very anti-Semitic towards Jews. A law was enacted that every person must register with the new government and disclose his or her religion. It was a law to make it easier on the Nazis to locate every Jew.

Shortly after the rule was enacted, Rabbi Lieberman and the Rebbe went together to the government office to register.

When the officer saw the Rebbe, he wrote down ‘religious’. When the Rebbe saw this, he insisted that they write ‘Religious Jew’. Rabbi Lieberman was amazed at the mesiros nefesh the Rebbe had to insist they write ‘Jew’. Now the Nazis could, G‑d forbid, easily locate the Rebbe as a Jew.

Faygie told us in the interview that she remembers her father telling her the story with so much enthusiasm that she will never forget it. We had heard about the story before, but now it was verified again by another source. Faygie also told us that the Rebbe insisted that he only eat meat that was shechted by Faigy’s grandfather, Rabbi Pinchos Lieberman. A very powerful interview!