By Paul E. Kandarian
Israel Arbeiter is 83, and the memory of Nazis taking him away from his parents, who would die in a German death camp, has never for a moment left him. His father's last words were, "Carry on the Jewish life and Jewish traditions."
Arbeiter, who came to the United States in 1949 and had a career as a tailor and cleaner, has done that - and continues to do so. "The Life Lessons of Israel Arbeiter" is a new exhibition at the South Area Solomon Schechter School in Norwood, featuring photos of his family and maps of prewar Poland. It will be at the school through January, and then go on loan to other schools.
"We were in the ghetto city of Starachowice, it was Oct. 28, 1942, and in the middle of the night, without warning, they came," Arbeiter said of the night Nazis stormed their neighborhood and took him away from his parents. It was a scene of unfathomable terror: babies torn from mothers' arms, anyone resisting shot dead on the spot.
He and his brothers were in one line, Arbeiter said, and his parents and younger brother were in another. He raced to the other line to be with his parents, and that's when his father told him to go, save himself, and carry on the Jewish life and tradition.
During his long life, Arbeiter spoke to numerous groups about the Holocaust, helped raise funds for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and The New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston, and testified against Nazi war criminals. He has been president of the American Association of Holocaust Survivors of Greater Boston, and was a leader in planning Boston's memorial, near Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
Arbeiter said his Jewish life and traditions will be passed to the most recent generation - his great-grandson, 15 months, who extends the family name and is, he said, the crown jewel of the family. He still chokes up while speaking of the last day he saw his parents in what he calls the darkest day of his life.
"I'm sure my father would, yes," he said, when asked if his father would be proud of how Arbeiter has carried out his request. "I'm sure he would."
There is no charge to view the exhibition at the Schechter School, 1 Commerce Way, off Sumner Street in Norwood. For more information, contact Diane Joiner at 781-769-9400, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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