Our Heart & Soul
By Menachem Ziegelboim
Every summer for 19 years, a bar mitzva celebration was held in Kfar Chabad
for the children of the war heroes who had died in Israel’s wars * Thousands
of people participated in these moving events * Behind this project was a woman
named Shifra Golombovitz of Kfar Chabad * For the first time, Beis Moshiach
tells the full story behind the amazing work done on behalf of widows and
Part 2 of 3 (Click here for Part 1)
you speak to Shifra about the families, she remembers each woman and all the
children in detail. She recalls names, families, where they live, as though she
just visited them yesterday. Shifra says that her strongest connection is with
the widows of the Six-Day War, although over thirty years have passed since
then. When I asked whether these women managed to settle down and rebuild their
homes, she points out something interesting. "To date, more Yom Kippur War
widows have married than the widows of the Six-Day War."
did the Yom Kippur War affect the widows of the Six-Day War?
badly. They wanted to forget, but it started all over again. Again there were
funerals and burials. They saw the unfortunate women and sympathized with them,
knowing full well what Shabbos would be like for them alone, and how they would
observe the holidays with only their children. It was terribly painful.
was really tragic in those families where not only was the husband killed, but
the son, who in the meantime had grown up and been drafted, was killed
you still in touch with the women today?
Many women are still in touch with me. This very Shabbos a friend will be
coming. Three weeks ago I attended the wedding of one of the war orphans who is
named after his father. I made his bar mitzva over ten years ago."
work widened in scope and came to include the mass bar mitzva celebration
for the children of war heroes (not orphans, but children of war heroes). The
first bar mitzva took place in the summer of 1968, a year after the
Six-Day War. "It was held in Heichal HaPe’er in Tel Aviv," recalls
Rabbi Itche Gansburg, who initiated the project. "There were 16 bar
mitzva boys and we invited the generals and senior I.D.F. men like Rechavam
Zevi, Ariel Sharon, Yisroel Tal and many others. It was a very impressive event.
remember something interesting from that first bar mitzva celebration.
Herschel Chitrik was one of the guests. He was so overwhelmed by the event that
he gave each boy a diamond. He subsequently received a letter of thanks from
General Moshe Dayan.
remember that the most inspiring moment was when the children were sitting at
their places and each one of them said l’chaim. The children
wholeheartedly wished, "halevai v’nizkeh l’Geula" (if only
we merit the Redemption). It was so impressive and moving."
had been suggested that the children go abroad to celebrate their bar mitzva,
but the Rebbe sharply negated that idea. The Rebbe’s sensitivity for mothers
and their children can be seen in this letter: "The issue in question is
the war orphans. It is not appropriate for orphans to leave their homes for a
period of time, for by doing so the widows’ feeling of loneliness will be
exacerbated, and in many instances, that of the brothers and sisters, too."
A ten-year-old child already thinks about his bar mitzva celebration. He
dreams about his new suit and how he’ll stand there and receive checks and the
cameras will flash – and then suddenly there is war. His father leaves and
doesn’t come back. There’s no father and the world is changed. He says,
"Ima, I want a bar mitzva in a hall. Like everybody
else." And the mother says, ‘Who has the energy or the patience?’
why we thought of making a collective bar mitzva for the children of war
heroes. We told them it was not to substitute for an aliya la’Torah
(when they actually turn 13), but it would be instead of a private party at a
invited all the Who’s Who, such as Moshe Dayan and the other commanders who
came to honor the fallen soldiers. They felt it was an honor they could give to
someone who died al kiddush Hashem. Newspapers from around the world
reported this unique event."
the organizers began planning the celebration, they quickly realized that it
would be impossible to put all the children from different cities on one dais.
The children wouldn’t know each other and would not feel comfortable. Plus,
you can’t imbue the children with Yiddishkeit at a party. After thinking it
over, we decided to have a camp for them for a few days prior to the event.
boys were invited to a four-day camp for the purposes of orientation and
integration. Each year we extended the amount of time, until camp was twelve
days long. It was not easy to coordinate this camp.
"It’s almost impossible to bring a boy from Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov and a
boy from Yerushalayim together at Kfar Chabad. One mother said she didn’t want
her child to be influenced by nonreligious children. A boy from Ashkelon didn’t
want to come for personal reasons. A child from a kibbutz didn’t want
to come because he refused to wear a yarmulka, but I wanted him to
decided to make house calls in order to convince the mothers to send their boys.
Right after Pesach I began going from house to house, and I felt the Rebbe’s bracha
with every step."
were many complicated issues that arose. Sometimes extra wisdom and sensitivity
were required to get to the root of the problem and to solve it effectively.
Shifra apparently dealt with it all successfully.
once went to a family that lived at Kibbutz Dor, near Afula. The mother had
remarried and I heard the boy call her husband ‘Abba.’ I decided that
it wouldn’t be to the child’s benefit to be part of a group of orphans. The
parents said it was alright and they understood my position.
I left, the parents walked me out, and out of the child’s earshot they said,
‘We heard what you have to say and you’re right, but we really want him to
join the camp because he’s not getting along with his father. We want him to
see that this is normal, and the children may be able to help him.’ I agreed
and that’s what we did."
there women who had remarried, settled down, and wanted to forget?
responded emphatically, "People don’t want to forget. They want to go on,
but not to forget."
a woman who, for example, had remarried five years ago, send her child to the
I’ll give you an interesting example. Once before going to the Rebbe, I wrote
to the mothers (not everybody had a telephone) that I was going and that I would
be happy to take their Pa’Nim. Many women responded.
of the women sent me a torn paper with scribbled writing in pencil, which said,
‘Shifra, tell the Rebbe that I can’t be alone anymore and I want to get
married.’ I didn’t think it was proper to give the Rebbe a paper that looked
like that. It wasn’t respectful or nice. Then I said to myself that the Rebbe
is a Rebbe and he accepts everything.
I received a paper with the Rebbe’s answers to all the women. To this woman
the Rebbe had written, ‘A blessing for a good shidduch soon, in a good
and auspicious time.’ I went back to Eretz Yisroel and decided to go to each
woman and bring her the Rebbe’s answer.
arrived at that woman’s house and said to her, ‘Rochele, you have an answer
from the Rebbe.’ She was in the middle of something and with difficulty she
turned to hear the answer. I told her that the Rebbe had given her a bracha
for a good shidduch soon. One month later she married a man who had never
been married before, who cared for her very much. Today they live in Moshav Balforia
and they have four children together.
time after giving birth, our activists at the hospital suggested that she light
candles. She answered, ‘Do you know who my shadchan was? The
Lubavitcher Rebbe.’ The woman asked whether she could send her second son to
our camp, even though he had a father, because ‘all his life he heard stories
about Chabad and he really wants to come to your camp.’ I agreed, and years
later both boys became baalei teshuva.
Gansburg: I remember how I wanted to
organize a women’s committee of I.D.F. widows. The Rebbe negated the idea,
saying that these women had to remarry as soon as possible.
kept in touch not only with the mothers but with the children, too. They loved
her dearly. Shifra has many stories about regards she has received from the
children, who over the years became men, some of them quite distinguished.
recently received regards from a businessman in Bangkok, Yisroel Yored, who was
one of the bar mitzva boys. I’ve received regards from Chile as well as
other countries. They don’t forget me," Shifra says with a smile.
a boy who came to camp feel the impact of his loss?
course. He would want to go to a soccer game, and who could take him? There
would be a parents’ meeting at school and everybody’s father would go except
his. It’s a terrible situation. Boys especially feel the lack of a father, for
a father is everything to them.
the boy turns 13 his mother subconsciously begins to throw more responsibilities
on him, which used to be the husband’s. If there’s a short circuit to fix,
she asks him to do it, but the boy wants to play with his friends. He wants to
remain a child, but his mother gives him the responsibilities of an adult.
‘67 they kept telling the kids, "Your father was a hero." In the Yom
Kippur War they weren’t heroes anymore, they were just the "fallen."
In the war of Peace in Galilee, the father had become a military mistake, as the
government had sent his father to an unnecessary front.
adopted not only children of war heroes, but orphans of soldiers who died in
road accidents or work-related accidents. At a certain point, people at the
Ministry of National Social Security asked that she also get involved with
children of those killed in terrorist incidents.
took them all," says Shifra. She has many examples of how sensitive the
children were. "During camp we had a boy who would constantly climb out the
window. He made me crazy. Once when we went on a trip, the child stood near the
driver the entire time and refused to sit down. Afterwards I realized that it
was because his parents had been killed on the highway.
needed a tremendous amount of sensitivity in order to understand why the child
did what he did, and we’re talking about more than one child."
devoted herself to the families, above and beyond the call of duty. One year
when they held the camp for the bar mitzva boys, one boy from Kibbutz
Chemdiya couldn’t attend because he was sick. The mother called Shifra and
asked her to make him a private bar mitzva celebration. Shifra willingly
agreed and invited the woman to Kfar Chabad, but the mother said there was
another boy at the kibbutz who wanted to celebrate his bar mitzva,
too. Shifra rose to the occasion and said, "You know what? We’ll come to
you for Shabbat." Shifra loves to recall that Shabbos, saying, "I
never had such a nice Shabbos."
program for the camp was planned taking into account the many sensitive issues
involved. The children did not sleep together, but were placed with families
throughout the Kfar, where they were royally welcomed. The children made friends
with other boys their age and learned how to live a healthy life.
camp the children opened up among themselves, which helped free them from their
depression," says Shifra. There might have been a boy who enjoyed singing
or playing, but the home atmosphere wouldn’t allow him to do so. When he would
see his friend singing or playing, he’d give himself permission to do the
same. There may have been a boy who had gone to the cemetery and did not feel
the need to cry and mourn. He wouldn’t dare to say that to his mother who
cries all the time, but he could share the truth with a friend."
morning of camp, Shifra got up and spent the entire day into the night with the
children. She participated in every game and accompanied them on every trip, as
hard as it was. She was always at their side.
camps were creative workshops for Jewish life. They did not achieve results
easily; only after a huge amount of difficult work. Shifra and her staff of
counselors (the Rebbe once said to make sure they were yerei Shamayim)
did their work devotedly, drawing the hearts of the children to their Father in
we wouldn’t force or even coax them to do mitzvos," explains
Shifra, who faithfully kept to her aim of not talking about Yiddishkeit.
"From a religious standpoint, the children did what they pleased. We never
told a child to put on t’fillin or to wear tzitzis. We taught
them what tzitzis are, and then we showed them how to tie them. At that
point the child was ready to ask for tzitzis himself."
was a boy who refused to daven for an entire week. Once, when we went to
visit an army base he suddenly opened up and davened.
once had a camp in which we focused on learning about the Baal Shem Tov. You
know the Baal Shem Tov davened in the forest. We took the children at
5:00 a.m. to the park in order to daven. A boy who didn’t want to daven
in the camp building agreed to daven among the trees. And how!
year we went to the Kotel to daven, but there were children who did not
want to daven. A child may have feared being seen by a relative, or any
other reason (you have to remember that there were children from ardent
took the boys to Yerushalayim at 12:00 p.m. and during the night we stayed at
Yeshivas Ateres Kohanim, where we had contests and games. Then we went for a
walk on the walls of the Old City. At 2:00 a.m. we stood in front of Shaar
HaRachamim. We continued the tour until dawn, and then arrived at the Kotel.
4:30 a.m., facing the Kotel, no child was embarrassed. They all opened up. You
had to see how their hearts opened up.
how we found different ways of instilling Yiddishkeit, but our goal was always
to have it come from them, not from us."
here to continue.)