- A chance shoutout at a Yom Kippur service led to a ‘miracle’ reunion of two Holocaust survivors
- Israel “Sasha” Eisenberg and Ruth Brandspiegel met at a displaced persons camp during the Holocaust when they were still children
- They reunited 70 years after in the USA and recalled their past and rejoiced in their reunion
Israel “Sasha” Eisenberg and Ruth Brandspiegel’s friendship was forged in childhood under the hands of the hostile and cruel Nazis. But their families shared origins in Poland and the circumstances leading to their meeting in Hallein Displaced Person Camp in Austria, made them consider each other family.
The camp was also the last time they saw each other was in 1949 as their families set out to different destinations after that.
Fast forward to 2020 in the USA, more than 70 years later, when a Yom Kippur service would lead to the friends meeting again.
Philadelphia resident Brandspiegel, heard Sasha’s name being called out during a Yom Kippur service over Zoom by her son’s synagogue in East Brunswick, New Jersey.
She said, “I said to myself, Sasha? I know there’s a lot of Eisenbergs, but Sasha Eisenberg? How could that possibly be? She then called her son Larry Brandspiegel who was a cantor at the East Brunswick Jewish Center and asked his help to check.
The shoutout at the service was from Eisenberg’s wife, Marsha, who wanted to acknowledge him for their 53 years of marriage.
To which his son said, “‘Oh mom, what are you talking about?’” she recalled. “I said … just take a look.’”
Larry did check and called the Eisenberg family and confirmed that the Sasha that his mom heard was indeed her childhood friend.
Eisenberg who is now 79 said, “I even didn’t know that Regina was in America!” Regina is Brandspiegel’s original name before she changed it to Ruth. He said, “It’s 70 years and I was a child. … So I called it a miracle, because I don’t see any other way that humans can organize such an event and make everything come together.”
The two did not know that in the more than 70 years that they did not know each other’s whereabouts, they were both in America and just living less than 60 miles apart.
Finally, under a sukkah, a temporary shelter used to observe the seven days and nights of the Jewish fall holiday Sukkot, the two friends got reunited in a socially-distance gathering hosted by Larry, Barndspiegel’s son.
For hours they talked about their post-World War II displaced person camp memories, looked at black and white photos and rejoiced and cried joyful tears in their reunion.
Brandspiegel said, “It’s a shame that we weren’t able to hug under these circumstances. But it was something that I never expected, and this was something that gave me so much pleasure that I’m just crying. … Sasha, Never forget that moment.”