I Missed the Boat and my Life was Saved: An Exclusive Interview with Rav Chaim Aryeh Spitz, zt”l
By: Heshy Rubenstein
Yesterday, the levaya took place of Rav Chaim Aryeh Spitz, z”l, a scion of a great Rabbinic family. A few years ago, Rabbi Spitz sat in town with the Yizkor Foundation and recalled his incredible life story:
“Jewish life thrived in our town of Bistrița, Romania. It was a chassidishe town,” he began. “The rov was my own father, Rav Meir Spitz, zt”l, who succeeded his father-in-law, Rav Shlomo Zalman Ullman as rov of the town.
“I can recall about eight batei midrashim, among them were the Viznitzer shtiebel, two Satmar batei midrashim, and others. There was a son-in-law of Rav Shulem Leizer of Razfert (a son of the Sanzer ruv) who lived in our town, and on account of this, we merited to have him as a guest in town on many occasions, and I recall this vividly. As I recall the way he was called up for an aliya, “ben Rav Chaim…’ I am overcome with emotion,” he said.
This beautiful and tranquil life was brought to an abrupt end with the arrival of the Nazis.
“On the day that the Jews of Bistrița were corralled into the ghetto, I escaped from town. I took leave of my father… and I never saw him again. My brother, my sister, and myself were spared… but all our family, my parents, grandparents, and cousins would all perish, mostly in Auschwitz. Hy”d.”
“I acquired papers from a gentile boy my own age and this was my ticket to safety. Arriving in Grosswardein, the Jews were already in the ghetto. The home of my uncle Mendel Goldring was a place where many Jews were spirited out to Bucharest, and I was able to make it there as well.
From Bucharest, he was set to take a boat for Eretz Yisroel. However, the driver dropped him off at the wrong home, and he missed the group by two hours. Chaim Aryeh was devastated—until he found out a while later that the Germans torpedoed the boat, and all the passengers, including his aunt and uncle, perished at sea.
In Bucharest, he became extremely close to the Viznitzer Rebbe, Rav Chaim Meir, zt”l. “The Rebbe had a yeshiva of about fifteen bachurim, and he would learn with us, he remembered”
“I will never forget the day that liberation came. We were now free,” Rav Chaim Aryeh recalled. I met up with a brother who had been in hiding in Margareten, and we headed back home to our shtetl. Arriving home, we could not find a soul… I could not absorb it. I simply could not take it,” he remembered.
The brothers established a kehillah in the town, where they remained for some time.
Following some time in Williamsburg, Crown Heights, and Flatbush, Rav Chaim Aryeh moved to Boro Park., while his brother, Rav Moshe came directly to Boro Park and opened a beis medrash.
Rav Chaim Aryeh left the world following a lifetime dedicated to Torah and Yiddishkeit, and establishing a beautiful family with many talmidei chachomim among them. As he goes up to Shomayim, he is united with those who were ripped away from him during the terrible Churban.
Yehi zichro Baruch.