This past Thursday evening, December 3, 2015 Kehilat Chovevei Tzion (Congregation of the Friends of Zion), led by Rabbi Shaanan Gelman, hosted an author’s reception and book signing in honor of Rabbi Hanoch Teller’s latest release, Heroic Children, in its new congregational home at 9220 Crawford Avenue, Skokie, Illinois 60076. Rabbi Teller: prolific author, modern day maggid (storyteller) and talmid (student) of legendary Rabbi Aryeh Levin, ztl (a.k.a. The Tzadik of Jerusalem) is also an accomplished filmmaker, educator and tour docent in the Old City.
This writer has had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Rabbi Teller on several occasions. Charming, witty and a masterful storyteller, this writer personally attests to the fact that one of Rabbi Teller’s stories helped him to resolve a particularly vexing problem in his own life-the story of a son with a tattoo, the afternoon before Kol Nidre, a young man about to become Jewish, immersing himself for the first time, and the kindness of an elderly gentleman who rescued him from unfriendly faces by showing him what he too had under his sleeve.
Heroic Children, Rabbi Teller’s latest and perhaps most important work has won the critical praise of such notables as Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and former Israeli Ashkenazic Chief RabbI Yisrael Meir Lau.
“A superb and.unforgettable work,” comments Rabbi Sacks, formerly Chief Rabbi of The United Kingdom and the first and only rabbi to receive an appointment to the English House of Lords. Rabbi Sacks also visited Skokie three weeks ago for a book signing.
A collection of stories about nine children who rose beyond the natural limitations of childhood in their struggle to remain alive in a subaltern world in which so many adults did not, Heroic Children will revolutionize our understanding of the war against the Jews and may even silence those voices who publicly wonder whether The Holocaust is still relevant.
Rabbi Lau characterizes Teller’s stories as ‘courageous and heart-thumping’ which will gladden the hearts of the many readers who look to Rabbi Teller’s stories as invaluable sources of inspiration.
As horrendously brutal as the Nazi treatment of Jewish adults was, how do we express the excruciating pain in our guts when we learn of the violence done to our children?
While it remains true that children have been always cast as victims because they were indeed, humanity has historically become sickened at the sight of violence visited upon children. As truthful as that may be, the ineffectiveness of humanity’s concern has never eradicated crimes against children from contemporary warfare. Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, author of Chutzpah, explained it in frighteningly simple terms underscored by the hateful but true logic that underlies it: ‘If it is your objective to exterminate a people, one must kill its children.’
Although there was method to the Nazi madness, the sheer enormity of its undertaking through to its failed completion was on a scale so vast that even the much-heralded German intellect could not foresee its lunacy and predictable failure.
Our Sages of Blessed Memory (Chazal) teach that one life taken is as if the world were destroyed. What then when nines lives are saved? Do they not become blessings for themselves, families, friends and perhaps even for all of mankind? Something to think about this holiday season.
This writer wishes to acknowledge how much better our world is, even in these troubled times, due to the tireless efforts of Rabbi Teller and wish him and his family much happiness, bountiful good health and ‘shalom rav’-abundant peace.