Holocaust History: On Boro Park’s Effort to Mourn Churban Europa

Holocaust History: On Boro Park’s Effort to Mourn Churban Europa

The Boro Park community has had an outsized impact on the Jewish world—and the effort to commemorate the indescribable and incalculable pain, loss, and suffering that our nation has endured during Churban Europa has been no different.

 Reb Pinchos Herzka, z”l, was an Oberlander Yid from Vienna who survived the Holocaust—and, like his fellow survivors, endeavored that the suffering of his people should not be forgotten.

 From his home on 54th Street in Boro Park, he launched an effort—through the Rabbonim of Boro Park, and beyond—to incorporate lamentations on the Holocaust into the morning kinnos of Tishah B’Av. He garnered the respect of the Rabbonim for his noble efforts, and, more importantly, he was the impetus for their compositions of kinnos that survive to this day.

 Reb Pinchos was a mispalel in the Debrecener Shul in Boro Park, and in the haskamah on this idea, the Debrecener Rov writes: “I was asked whether it is proper to print the kinnos that have been composed by Gedolim of our nation on the annihilation of our brethren al kiddush Hashem, between the years of 1939-1945, at the end of kinos l’Tisha b’Av. Surely, this is proper… and each congregation shall choose for itself the lamentations that is closest to their heart, and recite it with a feeling heart—while they conjure the image of our millions of brethren who ascended in flames at the hands of the accursed resha’aim, ym”sh.”

 The drive to incorporate kinnos was only a small part of Reb Pinchos’ efforts at Holocaust commemoration; his work can fill volumes. He himself authored a Sefer on his work on the kinnos side, which includes teshuvos and kinnos by the Gedolim.

 In 1984, the Bobover Rebbe—who famously lost a wife, children, and most of his chassidim in the war—authored a heartrending lamentation on the terrible suffering in the Holocaust.  He publicized it on 4 Av of that year, at the yohrtzeit of his father, the Kedushas Tzion, zt”l, Hy”d, who was himself killed in the Holocaust.

 This was a departure from his usual derech, which focused on joy, and on building the future. By 1984, 40 years after the Holocaust, when the chassidus was thriving once again, the Ruv allowed himself to look back…. “It is a tremendous benefit to commemorate the suffering that we have been through; and to keep in mind that we remain in galus, like one sheep among seventy wolves. None of us should think that we find ourselves in a free land...peace will be unto us, for we have not yet been helped, and we remain hopeful that salvation will come.” He went on to explain that he was introducing this now, at the behest of numerous Gedolei Yisroel.

 The Bobover Ruv’s kinnah can be found in most kinnos around today, and is a particularly rich, deeply moving, and starkly painful glimpse into the pain, the loss, and the suffering that our People have been through in the not-so-distant past, and have emerged to rebuild a lost world with emunah and tenacity.

Editorial: On Recapturing our Lost Glory
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Memory Lane: Rav Chaim Pinchos Lubinsky; Churban and Rebuilding
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