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R’ Ephraim Berkovits, Our Zaidy (Grandfather)
Ephraim Berkovits, Zaidy, as those near and dear to him would call him, was our hero. He was a survivor, a hard worker, and a Tzaddik (righteous individual). Of his siblings and parents, he was the sole survivor of the Holocaust. But instead of giving up on life, he persevered and managed to get married three times and raise two beautiful children. When Zaidy was just 18 years old (in 1935), he was drafted into the Romanian Army, where he cleverly exchanged 6 months of service by buying his own horse. He was later drafted into the Munka, Szoldala Army. Being in the army was no picnic. Zaidy used to say, “If you want to know how long two minutes are, try hanging from a pole by your thumbs for two minutes”, for if a soldier clocked in even two minutes late, they had to hang from a pole by their thumbs for two minutes.
Right after the war Zaidy married Selma Kahn. Unfortunately, Selma was very weak and died six months later. By the grace of G-d, while visiting Selma in the hospital, Zaidy met Ida, who was visiting her ailing husband. Zaidy and Ida married, and merited to have two beautiful children, Fredi and Norman, before Ida died of Hodgkin’s disease 10 years later. Our wonderfully caring Zaidy would spend a month’s wages on each of her treatments and would have her chemotherapy medications brought in from Poland- not an easy task. Our Zaidy was a survivor, bread winner, nurse-maid, father, and mother to his family.
In 1961, after 12 years of waiting, Zaidy and his children were issued Visa’s and left to America. They arrived in February of 1962 where they moved to Brooklyn. Once in America, our strong willed, self-made Zaidy taught himself English and read the NY Times daily to keep himself well informed with Current Events. In Brooklyn, Zaidy , once again, merited to find a spouse for the third time. He and his new bride bought an apartment in Borough Park, and lived there until she got sick in 1994, and died two years later. Our beloved Zaidy was a survivor. He survived the war, he survived Romania, and he survived three marriages that all ended too early. Zaidy was always a hard worker. He worked hard and taught himself many trades to help support his family, both as a child in Spermazeu Ciceu, Romania, and as a father is New York. As a child, his parents ran the general grocery store and sold beverages. Locals would come to the store and barter for groceries with eggs. At the age of 12, Zaidy would wake up at 4am and travel alone by horse and buggy to the city to sell those eggs! As a father, Zaidy became a jack of all trades in order to support his family. He was a painter, a postal clerk, a taxi driver, and a real estate agent. Zaidy didn’t care about status quo or honor, he just cared about his family and did whatever he could to support them.
Our Tzaddik, although he endured so much hardship during his lifetime, was a firm believer in Hakadosh Baruch Hu (G-d), and made sure to pass on that belief to his children, and all those around him. During the Holocaust, instead of turning away from Hashem (G-d), Zaidy made a neder (vow) with Him that if he made it out alive, he would never leave shul,synagogue, on Yom Kippur. Sure enough, and predictably so, every Yom Kippur after the war until the year he died, Zaidy was in Shul praying, learning, and saying psalms, until the shofar was blown at the end of the evening service.
Our Zaidy was the neighborhood candy man, providing the neighborhood children with a piece of candy, but at a price. Each child had to make a Bracha (blessing) before receiving candy. What we emulate most about our Zaidy is not what that he did for his family and friends, but how. Zaidy had a heart of gold, and would put others needs before his own no matter what. When his sister and brother in law needed a job, Zaidy, with a smile, pulled some strings and set them up in a company. When his “Opapa”, former father in law, needed a place to live, Zaidy, with empty pockets but a full heart, bought Opapa a place he could call home. Whenever he had guests, Zaidy didn’t deem it appropriate to just serve one dish, but would cook an entire gourmet meal, and serve it with a full heart to the empty stomachs at his table.
May the good that comes from this website provide eternal merit from our Zaidys neshomo, his Jewish soul, and his memory be a blessing for all of us.
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