On May 20th, Sarina Hilowitz of Savannah, Georgia will be celebrating her Bat Mitzvah, which she is twinning with one of our girls at the Rubin-Zeffren Children's Home in Netanya, Israel. The sponsorship is in memory of her Zeyde whose life story is truly inspirational and miraculous.

In honor of today's Yom HaZikaron - Remembrance Day for those who fought for Israel's freedom, Sarina's father shares his fathers amazing story with us.


My dad, Max Hilowitz Z'L , was taken to a work camp, Plasow, at the approx age of 16.

This was the camp where the notorious Amon Goeth was the commandant. It was also the camp where Oscar Schindler saved close to 1,2OO Jews.

Jewish women at forced labor in the Plaszow labor camp.
Inmates were constantly worked hard, tortured and killed.

One day my dad was told by a Nazi guard to run an errand and come right back. He returned and was told to stand on a chair. A rope was put around his neck and he was asked what he wanted to say before he was to be hanged. My dad said the Shemah.
The Nazi kicked the chair and my dad miraculously fell to the ground. The rope broke. He was told to go back to his barracks. By coincidence, I had the opportunity to examine a patient who was at the Plasow work camp from the day it was built. He told me if ever something went wrong with a hanging the inmate was hanged again. 

Years ago, I asked my dad why he didn't try and make a run for it when he was told to stand on the chair. At that point I told him "You had nothing to lose by trying and escape". He told me that he had no will to live. He had lost most of his family during the Holocaust. Hashem saved my father. My dad had many more good things to do for klal Yisroel.

Max Hilowitz, Holocaust survivor, while in the Israel Defense Force
He had the opportunity to take revenge on the Nazis multiple times by the end of the war, then volunteer for the Israeli Defense Forces in 1948. In that year on Yom Kippur he pulled his friend to safety after his friend was shot and lying in the battlefield under a barrage of Syrian gunfire. My dad ran onto the battlefield under heavy fire and put his friend on his shoulder and made it to shelter. 

Last year when my father's platoon sergeant from the 1948 war, came to pay a shiva call for my father, the first thing he said was " your father saved Shmilicks's life".

Max's son Jeff with his daughter, and Lev LaLev Bat Mitzvah girl, Sarina
With all that my father survived and accomplished he was very well liked by all, from his name Meir in Hebrew, he gave off light to all that met him. He is survived by two sons, and three grandchildren, Joshua, Sarina and Ava. He was a wonderful man. We all miss him so much.

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This year, when you are at the seder I want you to think about Moses. As an infant, Moses was smuggled into the Nile River to protect him from the decree sentencing all male Jewish babies to death. He was saved by an Egyptian princess and raised in the palace before he eventually found his way back to his people.
Irena Sendler; image credit: www.thejcconline.com
Thinking of this I am reminded of the story of Irena Sendler.

Irena was a Polish Catholic social worker who served in the Polish Underground and the Zegota (the Council to Aid Jews) resistance organization in German-occupied Warsaw during World War II. 

Under the pretext of conducting inspections of sanitary conditions during a typhus outbreak, Sendler and her co-workers visited the Warsaw Ghetto and smuggled out babies and small children in ambulances and trams, sometimes disguising them as packages. In this manner, Sendler saved 2,500 Jewish children, providing them with false documents, and sheltering them in individual and group children's homes outside the Ghetto.

She and her co-workers buried lists of the hidden children in jars in order to keep track of their original and new identities. Żegota assured the children that, when the war was over, they would be returned to Jewish relatives. However, after the war, almost all of their parents had been killed at or had otherwise gone missing.  

Jewish survivors of the Buchenwald Nazi concentration camp, some still in their camp clothing, stand on the deck of the refugee immigration ship Mataroa, on July 15, 1945 at Haifa port, during the British Mandate of Palestine, in what would later become the State of Israel. (Zoltan Kluger/GPO via Getty Images)
This April we celebrate G-d bringing the Jews out of slavery in Egypt on Pesach (April 6-14), commemorate those lost in the Holocaust (Yom Ha’Shoah – April 19), as well as celebrate the founding of the State of Israel (Yom Ha’azmaut – April 26). 

So, this year, let us reflect on the story of the Jews in Egypt and how it correlates to Jewish persecution throughout history, the Holocaust and the subsequent founding of the State of Israel. 

What connections do you find? (Hint: look at the way the Jews of Egypt were ghettoized in Goshen before they became slaves.)  Please share your insights in a comment below. I look forward to seeing what you find and learning something new!

Wishing you and your family a Chag Kasher V'Sameach! 

Sheena Levi 

Lev LaLev Director of Development 

Article originally featured in the April edition of the Beyond Bat Mitzvah BBMessenger monthly E-Newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter.