It all began when Paul Ostrow, community outreach coordinator at Holy Name Medical Center and a former mayor of Teaneck, wrote to Beth Chananie, the Standard’s guide and gallery editor, that a family connection of his would be visiting from Australia and had a fascinating story to tell.
And it is indeed fascinating – it’s a story about how Henry (or Harry, as he is called) Lew, a Melbourne opthalmologist, organized a collaborative translation of a Yiddish book by an eye-witness to the annihilation of the Jews of Bialystock.
The story became of particular local interest when I discovered that one of the pro bono translators, Jacob (Jack) Berger, was someone who lives in Mahwah – and who has made it his mission for 30-odd years to translate Yizkor books – which memorialize the Holocaust dead and destroyed communities.
And it became of personal interest when Jack Berger reminded me that six (six!) of his family’s cats are the descendants of The Beast (who was not at all beastly) and The Princess Casamassima, who, alas, are no longer with us.
At any rate, Dr. Lew will speak about the book, “The Stories Our Parents Found too Painful to Tell,” at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 23, at the Alex Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus, 901 Route 10, Whippany. His talk is being sponsored by the Holocaust Council of MetroWest.
In excerpting Dr. Lew’s introduction to the book and in interviewing Jack Berger, I was struck by the worth – even holiness – of their work. These accounts, particularly those written in Yiddish, are in danger of fading from history, and those who rescue and translate them deserve all of our gratitude.