My Grandpa Max passed away this spring -- on his 93rd birthday. According to Jewish wisdom, dying on the same day that you're born is a blessing. In fact, Moses was said to have died on his 120th birthday. The Talmud teaches us that God calculates and completes the lifespan of a righteous person.
My papa, Ralph Rehbock, has been the greatest influencer and teacher in my life. Since surviving the Holocaust as a young boy, he has never been shy speaking about his past, or about teaching the lessons of the Holocaust as a member of Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center’s Speakers’ Bureau.
My grandfather’s Judaism called to him when he was 16. It was 1942. His family had emigrated to America decades earlier and he was living the American Dream.
When I was in junior high, my family hosted a woman in our home who was in town for a weekend speaking engagement. She was in her 70s at the time, blonde, and wore tailored skirt suits. Warm and gentle, yet strong, she reminded me of my grandmothers.
I first remember learning about the Holocaust when I was 5 years old. Sitting in my grandparents’ living room, the camera crew entered with all of their equipment and I sat quietly on the couch with the rest of my family as we waited for the interviewer to begin asking my grandfather questions.
I am the grandson of Holocaust survivors who were lucky enough to escape the Nazis.